The library funding argument at last week’s council meeting was a little silly. While the council will soon be considering budget amendments from a number of city departments totaling about a half-million dollars in increased expenditures, a $3,000 pass-through request from the James Kennedy Public Library brought out figurative finger-wagging about sticking to budgets and not asking for more.
Compared to the large changes in the budget amendment, including some from JKPL, the library’s $3,000 request was peanuts. The money would have bought large-print and other materials, and it would have come directly from higher-than-budgeted reimbursements for out-of town usage.
The request would not have taken money from the city or taxpayers. Those reimbursements are intended to support library services, not sit in a bank account or repay a community’s investment in library facilities.
Clearly, the argument was not about spending $3,000 but about revisiting a funding fight settled several months earlier, when the library managed to negotiate a slight increase in funding. Many of the arguments were the same, and some officials seemed more interested in repeating their points than considering the relatively minor issue at hand.
We will remind our readers that city officials opposed to high library funding do have one good point: the James Kennedy Public Library is funded better than surrounding libraries, and that’s one of the reasons its services are sought by those beyond the community.
But we agree with library officials that it’s the responsibility of our community to fund the basic operations of the library to the level of service we expect, including facilities and staff. Here in Dyersville, that expected level of service is pretty high, and that’s what has made the James Kennedy Public Library the well-funded and highly-relevant library it is today.
We would welcome reform that creates more equitable funding of libraries across the area, especially when being used by patrons outside the area that provides the library with funding. However, we have to admit that we don’t know the roadmap for reforming this convoluted system.
Library board chair Lynn Osterhaus alluded that the way to avoid similar kerfuffles with the council would be to simply budget higher revenues next year. While this would avoid the bluster of the council chambers, less-conservative budgeting is probably not something the council wants to encourage.
Let’s do city business with open eyes, seeing each issue for what it is, not according to the ideological lens of previous battles. In this case, a simple, common-sense and trifling request got derailed because some city officials were still fighting the last war.
Our Opinion is the consensus of the Dyersville Commercial editorial board.