(An edited version of this letter was run in the June 30 edition of Lansing City Pulse)
In 2005, my wife and I moved back to the Lansing area after an unsuccessful year looking for work in Detroit and the east coast. We knew the area well from our time at Michigan State University, but we were coming back without much of a support system. Our closest family was in Detroit (my father lives in Chicago, and my wife’s parents in New Jersey), and nearly all of our friends had moved out of the area (and the state) after graduation. Our daughter was a little more than a year old at the time, and we were expecting our second.
We were living on a single income, and needed entertainment and educational resources for a stay-at-home-mother to use, as well as a place for the family to get out of the house and meet other families. We found all of this in the Capital Area District Library’s Foster branch, which had a great collection of kids’ books and music, and a weekly story hour. It was nothing less than a lifesaver.
Our children are older now, and my wife and I are both working full-time, but the library is still a big part of our lives. Our daughters check out more chapter books than picture books these days (Cynthia Rylant is a particular favorite), but Sesame Street CDs are still popular, and audiobooks still keep us all happy, healthy, and sane on the long drives to visit grandparents in Chicago, New Jersey, and Tennessee.
On Tuesday, August 3, voters will be asked to renew the millage that supports the Capital Area District Library. Even with increased operation costs and record levels of library use, CADL has not requested additional funds, but only a renewal of the millage which expired on December 31, 2009. This millage covers nearly 90% of CADL’s operation and maintenance costs, and without this funding, the 13 CADL branches will close on Jan. 3, 2011.
The Capital Area District Library is an essential community resource, and one of the best values in the area. In 2009 alone more than 1.5 million visitors checked out 2.7 million items (and logged more than 284,000 hours on the internet using CADL computers). My own family conservatively estimates that we get $148 of use for every dollar of our property taxes that goes to support the library.
Perhaps even more importantly, my daughters get excited when it’s time to go to the library. They love to return books on the conveyor belt in the downtown branch, and the toy trains can’t compete anymore with shelves and shelves of books they haven’t read yet. They meet up with friends by accident or at special events. They sit and read, and read, and read. (Okay, the younger one looks at the pictures and makes up her own story, but it’s a good start.)
This summer, they each got their own library cards, and they treat them as the most valuable things in their purses (which they are).
Please vote to renew CADL’s millage on August 3. The library is a treasure. Let’s keep it around.