Reporter editorial: The public library, a place for all

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

We live in a time where once rock-solid institutions are examined closely and often assailed for being out-of-touch, incompetent or worse. There are cranks and misanthropes who will always lead the charge against everything and anything, especially established community pillars. But by-and large, it’s a time-honored civic duty to respectfully question the purpose and performance of institutions.

One treasured institution on Shelter Island can withstand all questions and come out shining. The library here is much more than a collection of books, but serves its real purpose as being a haven for the arts, an information clearing house, a forum for political ideas and debate, everything in fact that lives up to Socrates’ definition of a library — a delivery room for ideas.

Library Director Denise DiPaolo and the Board of Trustees are leading an organization that is working every day to improve on the invaluable services provided, plus bringing on more programs and innovations. The proof is in the numbers .

Five years ago there were 10,000 fewer visits than today. This year 70,546 books were checked out, 30,000 more than in 2008 and about 6,700 people used the library’s computers this year compared to 2,100 five years ago.

There’s always something going on at the library; witness the nearly 700 total programs offered there this year.

All this costs money, and figures released by the library board come out to about $6.25 more in 2014’s tax bill for a property assessed at $640,000, or a total library tax of about $100.

An inexpensive price to pay for easy access to civilization’s glories in the center of our town.

In other places in these difficult financial times, funds for libraries are being slashed, which brings to mind the writer Isaac Asimov’s belief that when budget axes fall on libraries, “I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”

Voting on the 2014 library budget is at the library Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It should be voted in.

Civic responsibility

This election year is a quiet one. We have a race for the Suffolk County Legislature with Legislator Jay Schneiderman (Montauk-I,D,WF) challenging Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi (R,C).

There are ballot initiatives to be considered when voting on November 5, outlined in a Prose & Comments piece that can be found in the print edition of this week’s Reporter.

And on the local level, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Highway Superintendent Jay Card are running unopposed. Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Councilman Ed Brown are running for reelection, facing one opponent, Robert Reylek for Town Board seats.

These candidates will be debating the issues in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island and the Shelter Island Association this Sunday at 1 p.m. in the school auditorium. This is an opportunity for voters to make a judgment on the character, ideas and commitment to the Island each candidate has or lacks. It’s a voter’s duty to hear all sides of an issue and to judge the candidates who are presenting them before casting a ballot.

A duty and an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

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