Recession-Proof Library Funding? We’ll Drink to That
Columnist has been living at libraries since gods of technology snatched her Internet service.
The gods of technology are angry with me for dissing Facebook in last week’s column and have been withholding the Internet from my home.
In my defense, I said some nice things about Facebook too – hear that cyber gods? – but also that the storm and blackout showed how people need to cultivate flesh and blood friends. Our electricity came back on Wednesday after the storm but we still don’t have a working Internet, television or landline telephone.
Lack of WiFi at home has led me to spend a good chunk of every day at Starbucks at the South Mall in Allentown and in public libraries. This is what I’ve learned: 1) There truly is a limit to the amount of coffee one person can drink; and 2) Public libraries are among the unsung heroes of our age.
At the Emmaus and Allentown libraries, I’ve joined scores of regulars and blackout refugees using the computers and Internet service for work, job hunts, school and leisure. These places virtually hum with activity.
Libraries in the Lehigh Valley were pretty lean operations before the recession and a few years of state budget cuts and flat or reduced funding from municipal governments have made them anorexic. On election night, Whitehall Township voters approved a dedicated tax increase to keep the Whitehall-Coplay Public Library in business, but that’s a rare win for libraries.
Recently, The Morning Call asked readers if power companies should compensate customers for their losses during the outage. Assessing each customer’s damage would be a long and complicated process since it varied greatly and would be tough to document.
But it would show a real community spirit for PPL and other power companies to contribute a nice-size donation to organizations, such as libraries, that helped their customers through the outage. The “PPL Children’s Wing of the Emmaus Public Library” has such a nice ring to it.
Still, libraries need a recession-proof source of funding. So here’s my plan: Libraries could start selling high-priced coffee and pastries or, better yet, hard liquor. Back in my waitressing days, restaurant managers urged us to be very attentive to customers’ drinks because that was where the restaurant made the most profit.
If libraries had liquor licenses, they’d never have to worry about funding again! A round of gin and tonics and Proust for everyone! Alcohol might actually make some of us more ambitious readers -- there are authors I’d hesitate to tackle without a glass of Chardonnay.
You can foresee problems of course. Story time could get a bit dicey.
But I’m pitching the idea anyway because libraries are such public treasures and I’m grateful the one in Emmaus has let me set up shop until my Internet service returns.
I’m thinking the gods of technology might be appeased for my Facebook critique if I sacrifice some old manual typewriters or perhaps a record player. Just don’t make me burn my DVD of “The Social Network.”