November 24, 2014

Money Is Irrelevant

Well, another election has passed, and I’m left wondering if I’m in a time warp of sorts.  It’s like deja- vu all over again, only with a hue of red instead of blue.  It seems no matter which of the two major parties is victorious, the rhetoric is basically the same.  The same words keep repeating - polarized, gridlocked, standstill. I consider myself an optimistic-realist, and I, for one, am not holding my breath.
I cast my first vote in the presidential election of 1976, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.  It felt like the dawning of a new day politically. A chance for real change to be made.  With that first ballot, I felt my vote would make a difference and was excited to be part of the bigger process.  Thirty-eight years have passed, and I am still part of the process, having voted in every election since then.
I’d like to say I feel real change has been made and that my voting helped make that happen.  Instead, I find myself asking why things haven’t really changed much at all despite votes, different parties, different leaders, etc.  Could the reason be related to the catchphrase that entered our cultural lexicon via that 1976 motion picture about the Watergate scandal, All the President’s Men?  Follow the money.  Sadly, I think so. To paraphrase my eighty-year-old dad … money talks, and its voice just keeps getting louder and louder when it comes to politics.
Lest I end this column with more concern than hope, I must breathe life into the bigger reality of our world. I offer to you a positively amazing and powerful reality in the public forum - the public library.  Yes, the public library - your library - one of the last vestiges in the public arena that remains pure when it comes to dollars and cents.  Of course, money is relevant to the public library.  It can’t exist without your tax dollars to purchase materials you want and need, to hire competent, caring staff and to pay the bills that keep the building up and running.
Where money is irrelevant in public libraries is in the area of patron “worth.”  There is literally no such concept.  You see, the very foundation of a public library is that every single patron has equal access to everything it offers, regardless of how much money one has or doesn’t have. Irrelevant, indeed.
It is precisely the reason I was attracted to work in the public library.  I know what it is to grow up in a family where money is scarce.  I didn’t have name-brand clothes, and the car my parents drove barely made it from one place to another.  Yet, when I walked through the doors of my local public library, it didn’t matter a whit.  I was treated with the same respect as the town mayor who was known as “having money.”  I had access to the very same materials as the kids in my class who lived “in the big houses in the city.”  It was an equal playing field where money not only didn’t talk, it didn’t even get to utter a single syllable.
So, in this age that is too often typified by how big our bank account is, how many square feet our home has or what titles and initials come before and after our names, it’s both refreshing and reassuring to know that none of it makes any difference to me or to anyone else who works at your public library.  We are here to serve you and everyone … equally, happily and with gratitude for your patronage.  So, please come see us often.  And remember, you can leave your wallet at home.

Kathleen Ahern
Children's Librarian

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