Libraries once were places to go to borrow a book. For free.
They still are, but libraries became much more during the communication revolution. They became community resource centers – places where citizens can connect with their neighbors, meet to discuss important issues, access the Internet, research their ancestry and receive help and advice on everything from taxes to taxidermy.
Small libraries are particularly vital to the communities they serve. In places like Burgettstown, Carmichaels, Avella, McDonald, Bentleyville and Chartiers Township, residents take great pride in these fortresses of literacy. But they are not operated for free.
Since the state cut back on its support of libraries, some municipalities and school districts followed suit. Libraries were forced to curtail hours and lay off staff, and without regular sources of revenue, some of them will inevitably close. Dire circumstances are relieved by generous donations, but libraries really need regular streams of revenue in order to maintain staff, pay utility bills, replenish shelves and keep equipment operating. Chartiers-Houston Community Library received a severe blow in April when the host school district eliminated its annual $50,000 allocation.
Chartiers Township designated $20,000 this year for the library, and Houston Borough pledged $1,500, but this local government support amounts to a small fraction of the $200,000 needed to adequately fund programs and staff.
Chartiers Township residents have an opportunity Tuesday to create a regular source of revenue to the library through a ballot referendum. By voting in favor of the proposal to increase township taxes from 9 to 11 mills, residents will ensure the library receives $112,000 per year from township taxpayers.
The increase in taxes is not nominal; the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 will pay $50 more annually to support the library. We think it is a small amount to pay in return for invaluable service to the community.
A vote in favor of the special tax will free the library’s staff, board of directors and volunteers from begging each year for support and allow them to improve programs and service. They will know from the start Chartiers Township has their back.