Yesterday I was in the Paonia Public Library, and I tried to imagine our community without it. Sitting at the row of public computers, a library staff member was patiently helping a woman in her late 70s who was trying to set up a free email account.
She needed information sent to her but could only receive the information if she had an Internet account — but she did not have a home computer, nor could she afford home Internet service. An older gentleman was using a public computer to print off what looked to be a resume and job application from the Colorado Workforce. Three middle school students were finding books required for class reading. Their teacher had sent them to the library because the books were not available at school. Four people were reading various local newspapers in chairs near the publications table. Outside, on benches, several middle-aged men were working on laptops, using the free wireless available in and outside of the library building. In the small meeting room behind the front desk a work group from a local charity was planning an event. In the children's area a mother was helping her two preschoolers pick out books. Three 9-year-old boys were looking for some movie DVDs to take home, and in the large community room at the back of the library a GED class was in process. A college student was talking to one of the staff about how to use his library card at home to access one of the library district's many databases for a research project. An elderly man was looking through the large print book section for a Louis L'Amour western to read.
Our libraries are not just about books — they are a needed resource for everyone in the community. This is especially true in our area where many individuals and families cannot afford the cost of home computers or Internet service — things which are absolutely necessary today for work, school or research. And if things don't change, our libraries will soon have to cut hours, staff and its collection of books and digital databases.
Paonia is just one of the five libraries supported by the Delta County Library District through a small "mill levy" tax on the assessed property values of Delta County. It is specifically for the library district and the money is strictly for the libraries, no other purpose. The rate has not been raised since 1997. But property values have dropped over 15%, and the libraries are struggling to maintain services. On Nov. 5 the voters of Delta County are being asked to increase the mill levy by 1.67 mills, resulting in a very small tax increase for property owners in the county — about $13.29 a year if you own a $100,000 home, and about $26.59 if you own a $200,000 home.
There are very few taxes which are so specific, and for such a direct community benefit. The fire district is one and the library district is another. Without the mill levy increase, services in the county libraries will be drastically cut. Please vote "Yes!" on the mill levy tax increase for the Delta County Library District on Nov. 5.