In response to your opinion shared last week regarding the library expansion project, we would like to take the opportunity to speak to the citizens of Knoxville and beyond regarding the great need we see for this project. First, a few facts.
The original library was built in 1912, and this year we celebrate its 100th birthday. Over 100 years ago the citizens of Knoxville, seeing the community’s bright future, worked diligently to obtain funding and obtained it through a generous grant of $10,000 by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Through the additional hard work and generosity of many Knoxville citizens, a beautiful addition was added in 1989.
The library also provides downloadable e-books and audio-books as well as tens of thousands of books, periodicals, and other reference materials. Estimates are that we serve 10,667 people from all over Marion County and beyond.
When the Internet first emerged, some people suggested that libraries would become less important, and perhaps not be needed in the future. Those predictions proved to be as correct as those of prognosticators in the 1950s who said that there would be no automobiles in the 21st century because we would all use personal flying machines.
As a matter of fact, libraries have become even more important in the age of the Internet, given the training that they provide as well as increasingly critical services provided by highly trained library personnel. As the Internet is a wonderful tool, libraries have embraced it.
While a wonderful tool, parts of the Internet also are vast wastelands of bad and even harmful information. Librarians spend countless hours in training to use this important tool effectively--to sift the good information from the bad--and provide us with the information we truly need.
Together with schools, churches and hospital, a library is one of the cornerstones of a healthy community. Libraries give people the opportunity to experience new ideas, explore great minds, and learn while providing a sense of place for gathering. The public library is the only institution in American society whose purpose is to guard against the tyrannies of ignorance and conformity.
The Knoxville Public Library reflects the diversity and character, and the needs and expectations of our community. Those needs and expectations are often extensive, and our services are invaluable.
On any given day our library staff sees a full cross-section of our community use our services. You will see jobless people looking for work on our computers, perhaps with a staff person helping them. You will see judges, attorneys, leaders of business and industry, blue and white collar workers. You will see young families bringing their children to the library to explore the wonders found within. The full spectrum of Knoxville society uses our library.
The library is often the only readily available source of much needed information. Our community's economy benefits when business people use library resources to make wise business decisions, employees use it to improve job skills, or the disadvantaged use it to bridge the gap between those who have access to information and those who do not.
Business and community leaders know that when trying to bring a new business to town, or to recruit new employees, the quality of the library is a direct reflection of the quality of life in a community. During economic hardship, our citizens turn to and depend on the library.
Over summer vacations, evenings and weekends, the Knoxville Library is a sanctuary for school children and their parents; for preschoolers and home-schoolers, it is the only library available at any time. School children and adults come into the library to use our wireless access or study space, while the meeting room is free and used by a variety of businesses and organizations in town.
Those familiar with our expansion plan know that we wish to secure the Dixie Gebhardt house given its important historical meaning. There is also a strong sense of pride in history and genealogy in this community and the house can inspire all of us. Importantly, all of us in the community can be very grateful that the Gebhardt house has been well taken care of in private hands. However, it is for sale and we cannot be so sure that future owners will be as responsible as the current and past owners. The house is a Knoxville treasure - no, an Iowa treasure - and we see its acquisition as an important first step in expansion.
Our library is a unique and valuable resource. Furthermore, the services that the library provides are a public good. Everyone in our community is better off when we have a great library.
The cost to the public is very small in terms of taxes and offers great returns on the investment. Remember, last year, 85,955 items and 12,287 computer uses were checked out. It cost the resident about $34 in taxes – about the cost of a hardcover book. We think it is worth it and hope Knoxville will step up with donations to help us with the project, as the forward thinking people of Knoxville did over 100 years ago, and again in the 1980s.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak of the value of the library expansion to this community as we move together in the expansion project. For more information, or should you wish to help us with a contribution, contact us at 641-828-0585, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us on www.youseemore.com/knoxville or Facebook.