Nancy Morrison said something that was absolutely on point when she spoke at the recent Mont Vernon Town Meeting.
In a discussion about a plan to build a new Daland Memorial Library – part of an overall proposal to renovate the Town Hall and the McCollom Building – she spoke in favor of the new library concept and said this:
“It’s time to put things in motion. There is always something more important than the library. …”
By that she meant, of course, that voters could always find a project that they believed to be more important than a town’s library, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Certainly voters could take the position that a new police station or an expanded fire station or fixes to town roads are more important than expanding a town library or building a new one, and that is a fair argument in terms of physical infrastructure.
But a town is more than infrastructure. A town has an intellectual core and at that core, we believe, is the library. That is true in Mont Vernon, where voters saw that this year and agreed to the new building plan, and it is true in Milford, where voters have yet to see the need for an expansion of the Wadleigh Memorial Library.
We know that there are those who argue that in this age of electronics, where the sight of a young person actually reading a book is unusual, if not rare, there is less need for a library. But we say that the sight of kids reading on phones argues just the opposite. The existance of a library, especially a welcoming one with lots of books and newspapers and magazines, is a beacon to those on phones. They can choose not to move toward that beacon but the fact that it exists can’t be ignored, at least not totally.
But if the voting public doesn’t put great stock in libraries, why should those not yet old enough to vote? If, year after year, they see or hear of their parents or civic leaders turning down a library project because there is something “more important,” why should they think the library is of any value to them?
Nancy Morrison spoke for the people who still believe in words on paper, who still understand that a library is much more than a building because what it houses is ideas. You could say that these ideas are available on a tablet, but it’s not the same. If you look something up on a tablet or phone, you are seeing only the specific thing you sought. But in a library, as you walk down the aisles of shelves looking for a particular book, you will see other books, ones of which you might not have been aware, ones that might draw you in a different direction.
Nothing, in our estimation, is more important than a town’s library, even if, year after year, it seems as if there is. Too often, voters put off dealing with the library’s needs because of other impending issues.
Mont Vernon voters, however, saw the wisdom of putting the library on a par with those other needs and decided that spending a little more to include the library was the proper thing to do.
They were right.