When You Vote “Yes”

When you vote “yes” on March 7th to approve your public library’s budget, you are voting for intellectual freedom, local control and flavor, ultimate resource sharing, collaboration, and free access to information for all people.  You are voting for community, culture, and creativity.  You are supporting the belief that books and other reservoirs of human thought are valuable, belonging to all – not something to be burned or censored, but to be collated and protected; a means of passing on collective wisdom, wit, sorrow, and joy.  You are voting to support a warm building that provides common space for neighbors (even antagonistic neighbors) to cross paths and interact; a building for cozy stories, passionate discussions, meetings, movies, maker events, computer access, dance classes, crafts, celebrations, and sometimes just sanctuary.
A Castleton Free Library patron (a dad and preschooler building with construction toys) joked that libraries offer all sorts of things now besides books – museum passes, snowshoes, pizza delivery (he happened to be there at lunchtime).  But the truth is, public libraries do provide all sorts of services. A man walks in on a frigid Friday afternoon needing an inexpensive room for the night. He has no phone. This is a fairly common kind of reference interaction. The library phone rings multiple times every day with inquiries about tax forms and help.  Twelve kids explode off a school bus to mess around with stopwatches at a Crazy 8s Math Club. Tables covered in chocolate treats for a “Galentine” program on Women’s Fiction are folded to make room for Playgroup the following morning (when the library is “closed”).  The librarians pack sacks of books for deliveries to homebound patrons and classrooms. Typical week.
The means of procuring library funding varies from one Vermont town to the next as much as the towns differ in character and infrastructure. Vermont libraries are a grassroots phenomenon, cropping up in each town through local efforts and ideas, with no “template” or direct funding from the top. Some towns developed municipal libraries as official town departments, while others (such as Castleton Free) organized as non-profit corporations. In both cases, library boards are responsible for budgeting, policies, and stewardship; and for most libraries, day-to-day operational funding is raised mainly through tax appropriation, supplemented by endowment interest, small grants, gifts, and local fundraising.
Castleton Free Library FY18-19 proposed operating budget is the same amount as in FY13-14, the fifth year of level funding. About 61% goes toward payroll, insurance costs and benefits for two part-time librarians and Saturday workers; 17% covers building and utility expenses; and 22% pays for the lending collection, computers and programs.
If you have any questions about your library’s budget before Tuesday, please call or stop in.  And then vote “yes” to support library services.

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