LETTER: Do we really need a Taj Mahal library?

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I’m writing in response to Shannon Brock’s column regarding the meeting to gather input and ideas for a possible new library in Spencer County. While the turnout for this meeting no doubt was disappointing, it’s not at all surprising since obviously the vast majority of people take little to no interest in the functioning of or participation in their government — local, state or federal.
We’re seeing the dismal results of this lack of interest. Judging by the low voter turnout statistics, even participation on Election Day is increasingly dismal by any standard. Voter turnout of approximately 30 percent or less in the last general election of statewide constitutional office holders last month is an example of that.
Scant few take any meaningful time out of their other activities to learn more about candidates or issues such as library taxing districts that will have serious impact on their community, taxes and future.
Now, having said that, I’ll get back to the local library issue, my questions and my suggestions.
Does the average citizen of Spencer County have enough information about the issue to have a reasonably informed opinion? How many people know why the library has determined it needs to increase its size from the reported 6,000 to 16,000 square feet when in this age of technology and Internet access information once only available through research at the local library is now available in the comfort of their homes and now even on their cell phones via the Internet?
Is the Taj Mahal of libraries really needed in the first place?
Will the Spencer Magnet obtain from the library board the data that indicates the need for nearly a three-fold increase in size? Daily, weekly or monthly visits or books checked out or other important data or is it just money burning a hole in the pockets of the taxing district?
For the children and teens of Spencer County, is the Spencer County library taxing district offering significantly more than what is offered by the libraries at the schools, which have also improved as schools are updated and expanded?
What is the total anticipated cost of this Taj Mahal new facility? Is this really necessary on this scale or is it more a matter of the taxing district spending money they have amassed as a result of collecting more tax than is necessary for a viable and useful public library?
Is building a Taj Mahal of libraries in Spencer County the wrong message at the wrong time in these difficult economic times? It seems more questions need answers before jumping out to use up excess tax money the library district has been collecting from Spencer Countians.
I suspect the decision has already been made to build the new library on the basis of what can the taxing district afford rather than on justification of need. But, would a reasonable alternative be to make far smaller improvements to the existing facility for those in the community who may not have and who need Internet access or who don’t have access to school libraries? Then set aside the balance of the excess tax money sitting in taxing district’s bank account into some sort of endowment fund that would allow for a massive cut in the local library tax while still keeping the current library facility properly maintained and updated for many years in the future?
If indeed, as I suspect it may, the Taj Mahal library idea does move forward, then my suggestion is to invest that tax money on the Historic Main Street corridor. Invest in some of the vacant space already there to enhance that area to help encourage more activity and private investment to improve Taylorsville’s Historic Main Street.
My hope is that Brock looks further into this issue and informs her readers, the taxpayers, of what she finds out before the library board moves forward building an unnecessary Taj Mahal library that will bring far higher future operation costs and that many not really be needed at all.
It’s not too late for the taxpayers to become informed and to help change the course, if it isn’t the correct and needed course for the taxing district to take.
John Riley
Former Spencer County Magistrate