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The recent library ballot measure defeat and letters about our public library have made me think about why we have public libraries in the first place and the role that they play in our society. The public library is an institution that was handed down to us and when you’ve always had something, you sometimes forget why you need it. The hyper digital environment we live in today makes us think the public library is no longer relevant. I argue that this makes the library even more important.
The volume of information on the Internet is not an indicator of quality. In most cases, the highest quality and most valuable information is not free nor is it available via the WWW. It is the public library that provides all of us with free access to the best and most credible and authoritative information. If there are no public libraries where will we go to get reliable and authoritative information? If there are no librarians, who is going to help us find it?
Thomas Jefferson talked about the need for a democracy to be built on an informed and educated citizenry. Libraries protect and foster our freedom of speech and freedom of access. Libraries facilitate and ensure our intellectual freedom to both seek and receive or view information from all points of view without restriction or traceability, to have free access to all expressions of ideas through which all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored, and to hold, receive and disseminate ideas. Free speech and free access are an indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.
Despite the ballot measure defeat, I am going to send $20 to the El Dorado County Library even though the assessment is not on my tax bill. If you are an El Dorado County resident reading this letter and you value free speech and free access for yourself and for others, if you do not want this democratic experiment to fail, join me in supporting our public library today and in the future.