Yes, I Would Pay Higher Taxes for the Library

Library Taxes

Pretty much every year, a representative from one of the towns in my area tries to withdraw his town from the library in order to save money. He always cites the lump sum contributed by the town for their membership because it looks very big (though, in terms of tax contributions, it isn’t.  In fact, these representatives recently voted to spend more on a single road repair than they pay annually toward the library).  However, if he would break the numbers down, people would see that they actually pay less than $20 per person per year to use the library.  That’s less than the price of one hardcover book and less than the price of buying one DVD.

In return for this tiny local tax, patrons receive access to books, movies, music, magazines, newspapers, and research databases.  They gain programs like story time, STEM events, free legal advice, and craft afternoons.  They receive access to early child literacy professionals and research professionals.  And that’s all from paying next to nothing in local taxes (though state and federal taxes also help pay for libraries).  Quite frankly, I would be willing to contribute far more in local tax dollars in order to see my library thrive even more.

Americans tend to complain every time taxes are raised, but I see taxes as a necessary way to provide for the common good and for the community.  And, really, if my tax dollars are working properly, I actually have less need of hoarding more money for myself.  Right now, I could use the money I am not paying in taxes to make personal purchases.  But if I paid more money in taxes to the library, the library could buy more books and provide more services, meaning that I no longer would have to buy those books or purchase those services for myself because they would already be available to me.  I would, in essence, have no more need for my money because everything I would need would already be provided.

And, in the long run, I think that paying higher library taxes would benefit me more than keeping my money for personal purchases.  My personal money can only buy me so many books, classes, craft supplies, etc.  But my tax money combined with the tax money of everyone else in the community buys quite a lot.  For example, I typically read around 100 books a year.  If we assume an average of $20 per book, that’s $2000 worth of books.  Each year, I pay less than $20 to read $2000 worth of books.  And that’s not even counting movie or music rentals, programs, etc.

The reality is, things cost money.  My library has been running on limited funding for about ten years, ever since the recession.  They cannot sustain that forever.  Prices have gone up while funding has remained stagnant, which essentially means they have less money to buy and replace materials, less money for programs, less money for new initiatives.  But, considering how my tax dollars seem to multiply when they go towards the library, I would gladly pay more.  The library is worth it.

24 thoughts on “Yes, I Would Pay Higher Taxes for the Library

  1. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    You bring up so many great points here, Krysta! This will only be my second year working a part time job, so I haven’t had to worry much about taxes until just recently; however, I fully agree with you that in the long run, paying higher taxes for libraries is for the best. Libraries offer a wealth of services, and if everyone in our communities were able to contribute just a little more in taxes to support these programs, it will likely have a positive effect on the overall well being of the people.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve seen some libraries discuss their return of investment, or how much money they “put back” into the community so to speak, for every dollar of tax funding. I think it would be cool if more libraries could distribute information like that. Like how the local tax is, how much the economy could be improved by people using the libraries to find jobs or get education, how much the school system benefits from students using the library, etc. I think libraries do a lot of good work, but they seem very bad about advocating for themselves!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Terence Park says:

    I remember the central public library in Burnley (Lancs, UK) with some nostalgia. My first visit was back in the 1970s when I introduced myself to the juvenile section in order to read science fiction for free! My taste for SF was triggered when I finally got round to reading Patrick Moore’s Invader From Space, a book I’d won as a prize for good work in junior school. Now you have to understand that up until that time I’d been very much a C.S. Lewis+ Narnia type of youth so I looked upon Invader From Space with some suspicion and refused to even open it until I hit my teens. Once I did I was riveted… and this led me to the Junior Section of Burnley Central Library.
    Now my family were poor (one parent, mother an immigrant) so buying books was an unthinkable luxury; this made the library a great place to go – I could spend Saturday afternoon reading half a book sat in the library, and then withdraw it to finish it off at home.
    My formative SF reads included John Christopher, Andre Norton, Philip E. High, Robert Heinlein, H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. The place was sometimes stuffy and if there’d been rain it would be packed out. In later years I upgraded my membership to the Adult Library. The Reference Library on the top floor fascinated me with its display of historical maps of the locality on the walls. There was an assistant in the Reference section who hadn’t mastered the art of talking in a whisper. Interestingly I bumped into her at 40 years later at one of the writing groups I frequent. She still hadn’t mastered that art.
    At some point in the past twenty years, the question of libraries began to preoccupy my subconscious to a point where I began to dream of a vast, old and decrepit institution – the last library on Earth. Naturally it was very like the Burnley Central Library of memory. Though I rarely write my dreams, in 2013 I committed this to words.¹ A couple of years later – in 2016 – Lancashire County Council, proposed closing up to 60% of its 73 libraries. There was push-back from the communities, especially older citizens who were used to borrowing for free. Eventually the politics in Lancashire County Council changed and some of those that had been closed were reopened.
    As a self-publisher who is local to Lancashire, I have to report that local library interest in stocking my books is zero – this is a centralised bureaucratic policy – very different from across the county border in West Yorkshire, where Hebden Bridge Library took a more enlightened attitude.

    ¹ This takes the view that we aren’t far from the time when few will have ever visited a library; even now few are capable of comprehending its value. And so, after things fall apart, access to knowledge will once again be limited. Thus do I follow the footsteps of J.G. Ballard.

    Before I get back to my day job, here’s the front cover to my school prize:
    Patrick Moore: Invader from Space

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      What a wonderful story on the importance of libraries! I find it sad that some libraries are closing or struggling with funding because they remain the great equalizer, offering education and access to all. Libraries are even picking up services that you might think other agencies should be offering–but aren’t. Or maybe people hesitate to go to those agencies, but they trust the library. The work libraries do is constantly, I think, underestimated by government officials, who probably in many cases, have never needed to use those services and so deny their value.

      Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Terence Park says:

        There’s a whole other conversation to be had about what to do if (when) that which powers our present civilisation no longer works. Like the canary in the mine this is why I tweet my song (though in my case it is voluntarily) .

        Like

  3. Jordann @thebookbloglife says:

    Definitely agree! We need to look after our libraries and librarians, they play a huge part in our culture and learning. I would be way more willing to pay more for my library than see it go under! Fantastic post! xo

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I would love to see my library and my town talk more about the library finances, how the library is funded, etc. A lot of it seems very mysterious. But I think people would have input if they had information!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    My taxes right now are actually *enormous* especially compared to other states, so while I would actually pay more in taxes for the library (no one has ever asked me if I would, remarkably), I am also very interested in what exactly IS being done with my taxes right now. Because it’s definitely not going to the library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Where I live, there’s a local library tax that goes exclusively to fund the library. I’m not sure how state and federal library taxes are handled, though.

      Like

  5. Paper Worlds says:

    I think Briana makes a good point in a comment above. Unfortunately, not a lot of the tax that people pay goes to the library service. It’s exactly the same in the UK. I find it really sad that many of the policy makers and “important” people don’t appreciate the value in public libraries.

    I’m interested to know if there is any law in the US that protects public libraries? In the UK, we have legislation that makes public libraries a necessary service. If an area was not delivering a good enough library service, then it would technically be breaking the law. It’s never really acted upon to enforce standards but it means that public libraries cannot just completely disappear.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      There is a local tax where I live that goes specifically to the library and that is the tax I would want to raise. Some state and federal taxes also pay for the library, but I don’t know how those are decided. Definitely I wouldn’t want a general tax increase since I know that wouldn’t pay for the library! I’m not sure that libraries are protected in any way, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Enobong says:

    I’m from the UK where we seem a lot more willing to pay higher taxes for government funded schemes that benefit the whole community, although that is changing. I would happily pay higher taxes for libraries, for healthcare and for education. And doing these things doesnt mean we have to automatically fall into a socialist state.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think people forget that these things need money. If I actually could get decent health care and education, I’d pay for that, too!

      Like

  7. luvtoread says:

    Interesting! I would be willing to pay more for the library, but I’m hesitant to give the government more money. They don’t use our money appropriately now, so why would giving them more money have a different outcome? But, with that being said, I don’t know how much of my very high taxes actually go to my local library. It seems almost every election period that there’s another tax measure for the libraries on the ballot, and sometimes this passes, sometimes it doesn’t.
    My local library is pretty good about notifying the public of what the tax dollars go towards – for instance, taxes were raised and so the library was able to get a lynda.com subscription for patrons to use. My local library has also just recently gotten wi-fi hotspots that they loan out as well. While i haven’t used these types of services from the library yet – I always forget about them – I’m thrilled that I’m seeing more services offered at my library, which is a direct response to those higher taxes.
    But, as a whole, I disagree with giving the government more of my hard-earned money. I’m in California, and my taxes are ridiculously high.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Where I live, there’s actually a local tax that is specifically for the library that has not been raised in, well, I don’t know how long! That’s the specific tax I would want to see raised. Raising my taxes generally, well, like you said, I have no guarantee that the library would get the money! (And, let’s be honest, we all know it wouldn’t.) Right now I pay under $20 for the local library tax. Even if that were doubled, I think $40 would be a manageable tax for me to pay for the library. After all, I get way more than $40 worth of services from the library!

      It sounds like you have a really awesome library! I know there are things my library would probably like to do, but they cannot. Actually, I would love to see more new releases there. The book buying budget seems stretched pretty thin, considering some of the hottest new titles haven’t made an appearance on the shelves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • luvtoread says:

        I tried to figure out how much of my tax dollars my library gets, and all I can figure out is they get money from property taxes and sales tax. Property taxes are quite ridiculous here, but I’m not sure how much they get from those particular taxes. The sales tax measure was the one that passed recently, so everyone pays it in the county, and the library website has a page that details all of what that measure has accomplished so far (now open on mondays, various online resources, etc). So I’m not quite sure exactly what I pay for the library. $20 or $40 sounds like a good deal, especially if you’re using the library! My library does get used a lot – it’s always busy when I go and that’s nice to see. I go through phases where I’ll use the library a lot, and then not go for a month or two, then go regularly again. I figure I’m already paying for the use of the library, so I should use it as much as possible – and since my husband doesn’t use the library, I’ve got his share to use too 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.