Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I've been with MacTroll since I was 16, and I only had two boyfriends before that.

One relationship was a mutual break up. The other I was dumped and left to rot in a pile of flaming poo. Okay, not literally, but it was bad. Terrible. Even worse, it was my first boyfriend. So I'm pretty sure my second relationship suffered a lot because complete trust really wasn't on my list of things I was willing to ever give anyone ever again. Why put that much power in someone's hands to hurt you? I mean, you can only be sure of death, taxes and free library usage, right?

Last week when I was on vacation, I got an e-mail from my library. Living in Savoy, we're part of the Tolono Library District. I'm not sure why, since we're part of the Champaign School District. The story I got from a neighbor when we moved here was that we had asked Champaign to be part of both the schools and the library, but that the library wasn't interested in us. I've always wondered if that was true, but now it doesn't matter.

For those of you who don't know, I worked in a library for 5 years in high school and college. I also worked at the Champaign Douglass Branch for 10 months while one of their employees was overseas with the military. I LOVE libraries. I LOVE librarians. Seriously, they're my heroes. I like people that have degrees in information management. I love the idea that they are gatekeepers and keymasters to an ultimate power: knowledge. I can watch them do their magic. I can hear them. If I know them well enough, they'll even let me hug them (right LL?). As a parent and as a teacher, librarians are infinitely helpful and kind. Hell, they even found me a Roy Dupuis movie from New York state for heaven's sake. It was a terrible film with Judd Nelson, but still -- I was holding Roy Dupuis in my hand -- which made me totally in awe of the interlibrary loan system.

So it was a giant surprise when I read the e-mail to find out that my entire library district and that of Mahomet were the two "rural" areas that were getting dumped from having any kind of access to the Champaign Library materials. As of Nov. 1, 2010, we can neither show up and check out materials nor can we request them through the library loan system. What happened was that Savoy and Mahomet residents are taking out too many Champaign materials. For every 10 books a typical Tolono resident takes out from the Tolono library, she checks out 17 from Champaign. It's a money issue. And I get it. We're in a recession. Things suck for everyone -- except Apple, who must have a pact with the devil, right?

Here’s what I know being a mother with a young child, who lives in Savoy, went to school in Champaign and has friends with young children from every big and little town around central Illinois.

Tolono is my home library. It’s the only library where my son has been part of the reading program for the last three summers, even when wholeheartedly invited by the very friendly children’s services staff at the Champaign Public Library (CPL) to take part in theirs. I volunteered doing story hour at Tolono when I was pregnant with X-man. I took him to the U of I Extension programs there when he was a toddler. I take him to their family movie nights. 

Tolono is the library I prefer to attend, because I like that it’s quiet and small. And from the moment I got my card there, they stressed that I should check out most of my materials through them.

But I also run a local family meet up group, and it’s nice, particularly in the winter, to meet in different places, closer to other people’s homes and not to have ever had to tell my son “No,” when he asked to check out books. (Hugs, books, fruits and vegetables are supposed to be universal yeses when it comes to parenting, right?) 

I attended Parkland College for two years taking Early Education classes. It's convenient to stop at CPL, in the middle of town, on my way home to Savoy from Parkland to do research for a paper or pick up books for a class assignment. Last fall, my instructor took us on a field trip to CPL, where the librarians welcomed us to use the library as a resource for our classes and personal growth as educators. Now, I guess that option is open to all teachers who have cards issued to them by their schools/daycares -- or use their personal cards not from Savoy or Mahomet, unless on their $9/hour daycare jobs they can foot the $200 bill to buy a Champaign card, in addition to whatever tax money they're already paying their home libraries. 

My son starts kindergarten next year and could be a student at Carrie Busey, our proximity A Champaign School. Our business is a frequent contributor to local school projects at My husband is a U of I graduate. I graduated and worked at Millikin in Decatur. Our ties to and appreciation for the entire educational system in the central Illinois region run deep. 

My husband and I moved to Savoy from Northern Virginia seven years ago, not because it had lower taxes than Champaign or Urbana. We moved to Savoy because we liked the neighborhood. People came out of their houses. They waved at each other. They smiled at you and said hello. It agreed with us each time we visited, even though I wasn't such a big fan of the newness of the subdivision (i.e. I wanted trees).

Lately, at the News-Gazette web site in the stories about CPL’s decision to cut off Mahomet and Tolono libraries from using their materials, I’ve been reading a lot about how I’m some kind of cheap, freeloading Savoy resident, and it hurts. Because I didn't set my tax rate. I didn't even know it was lower than Champaign's when I moved here, and as far as I know there hasn't been any big referendum for the Tolono library that I could have voted for to increase its funding.

But I love that my son shares my library fandom for what we call the Big, Medium and Little libraries. I appreciate the flexibility having a library card that you can use anywhere gives our family. Explaining this change in library freedoms to my 4 year old has not been easy to do. Money issues are understood at this age, but definitely aren’t fully appreciated. 

There wasn’t any other action that could have been taken before cutting the communities off entirely? Maybe part of me is just too idealistic. I guess, with my work experience, librarians always communicated to me that the point of libraries was that they worked together to get books in people’s hands as a way to help continue diversity of thought and ideas and encourage literacy -- regardless of that person's reading level, geographic location, race, gender, age, etc. 

If I used CPL enough to justify the $200, I’d get a card. But I don’t think I do. I’ll find out in a few months, apparently.

I also fear Urbana will follow suit. As it is, I had to "unlike" CPL on Facebook. To see their updates is like having the locker within eyeshot of my first ex-boyfriend, kissing his new girlfriend, the day after he told me he'd met someone else while I was on spring break. I already lived through that torturous rejection once. 

Want to know something funny? My boyfriend's biggest complaint during the "Maybe we can be friends" speech—

"You think too much."

It's funny, because apparently CPL thinks I read too much for a girl who lives on the other side of the tracks.


imarogers said...

Here I am making a comment about the one thing that has nothing to do with the library.

Nice Ghostbusters reference. :)

Rudy said...

Nice post. I agree! I think its ridiculous to kick out communities that contribute so much to both Champaign and Urbana. I mean the whole issue is way bigger than the money "out of towners" pay in taxes. They stimulate the economy here in huge ways. Also, if this line of thinking is acceptable why not make all renters pay $200/yr to use the library? Sounds nuts huh? But I see it pretty much the same. They are just picking on someone and you happen to be in the least offensive group to pick on. I get budget issues but this is bad for the community. You don't want to go around pissing your neighbors off over money... especially not neighbors that contribute so much to your community.

The Fearless Freak said...

@ Debra, generally property owners figure in taxes to rent so most renters are paying the $200 a year property tax, albeit through a middleman.

I have a friend who works at the library and she told me that the Savoy board was given the choice several years ago to pay the Champaign tax and be a part of the library system or pay lower taxes and use Tolono. the board, at the time, chose Tolono.

She also mentioned that the library is at the point (because of a hiring freeze, because as everyone knows the economy sucks), that if they don't get the number of people in the library down, they will have to cut hours. They simply don't have the people to cover all the desks for all the hours of the day they are open anymore.

I guess my question in the whole thing (and to address the free loader comment) to the board would be: why doesn't Savoy have their own library, school, police force, etc?

My town growing up had a K-12 school, a library (and a pretty nice one at that, we rarely went to Champaign, unless we needed research material for obscure subjects), a police department, a fire department, a park/recreation department and we only had 2000. Savoy has twice that number, yet offers none of those services to their residents. What is the board's justification for the lack of services the village offers to it's residents?