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.