Saturday, July 20, 2013

On This Date in 1998

My face is less red, more brown today. I’ve been applying a moisturizing oil on a regular basis, which I hope will prevent any peeling.

Eddie’s baseball game was rained out yesterday evening. When I left the library, a solid bank of very ominous-looking steel-gray clouds was approaching from the west. Rain started to fall shortly after the boys and I returned home and continued off and on, mostly on, until dusk. The weather also kept me from doing any yardwork. JoAnna made pizza when she came home, one vegetarian, one mat, which provided us with leftovers for lunch today. I read the newspapers while everyone else watched TV. Around 7:30, Andy asked me if I wanted to play cards. The boys and I played rummy, crazy 8s, and war – a few hands of each. I quickly got killed in the last game of war and left the boys to fight it out between the two of them. Surprisingly, they even agreed to my suggestion that we turn off the TV. They’ve been into the Disney channel lately, and I’m tired of seeing their insistent promos for the kiddie group N’Sync, a Backstreet Boys offshoot, 5 teenage boys with major prepubescent appeal. None of them plays a musical instrument, at least not onstage. They look as though they lip-synch to prerecorded music and chug their way through a series of choreographed moves designed to elicit screams from the mostly female audience. Milli Vanilli was more influential than people give them credit for. An N’Sync concert was televised this past weekend, which was must-see TV for the boys. In fact, last week Andy complained, “Grandma and Grandpa don’t have Disney,” meaning that the Disney channel isn’t on their cable system. This concern of his was relieved when we decided not to go to Two Rivers last weekend. Albert’s idea of a surprise party didn’t seem to be going anywhere, to nobody’s surprise. JoAnna had to pick up Boxer at the vet’s at noon on Saturday. He spent an evening way from home after getting declawed (and seems to have adjusted very well to it).

After checking her calendar, JoAnna said she can accompany me on the return trip to Pennsylvania. That was a great relief to me since I wasn’t looking forward to making that trip by myself. I probably won’t get back to Middleton from my meeting in La Crosse until 5:00, so it’ll be close to 6:00 by the time we’re on the road. I’m not sure if we’ll try to do the trip in one stretch. We’ll make the return trip on Monday, which means we’ll have at least one full day to visit. Maybe we can have a picnic at the cabin.

A month or so ago, I was asked to give a short talk on the Declaration of Independence to the Optimists, a local service club. My first reaction was, “I enjoy reading about American history and have for more than 20 years, but I’m certainly not an expert on the Declaration.” I thought of an angle which would allow me to promote the services of the library at the same time and decided my talk would involved how I research my talk by using a variety of library resources. My sources include reference books, such as the World Almanac and the World Book Encyclopedia; history book from the library’s collection, including a recently published title, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, wherein the author claims that, contrary to the longstanding acceptance of most historians, Jefferson should not be considered the author of this document; books reviews of American Scripture obtained through a full-text database available on the library’s computer system; an article on the signers of the Declaration from the December 1962 issue of American Heritage, one volume of an entire run of this magazine that was donated to the library a few years ago; a title from the Giants in Political Thought series, an audiotape collection; a video on Thomas Jefferson’s life, and a variety of information gathered from the Internet. It’s been fun putting this talk together.

I’ve been reading the Times Observer article with interest. What it boils down to is an equity issue. Let me use Middleton as an example. Residents of the city of Middleton pay $24 per capita to support the public library, which is slightly below the state of Wisconsin average. Why should neighboring municipalities pay nothing or even $12 per capita and expect to receive the same level of service? Fortunately, we don’t have to wrestle with the kinds of issues that Warren County is dealing with. The Dane County Library Service reimburses the 18 public libraries in Dane County for non-resident and cross-municipal use. This year, Middleton received $285,000 for extending library service, the majority of it the result of our serving as the far west side branch of the Madison Public Library. If we didn’t have this kind of arrangement, we’d have to implement a fee system. The problem as I see it has to do with the county commissioner form of government. Two votes can determine policies and programs for Warren County. Two much power in too few hands. 

Public libraries have never been “free” operations. In Wisconsin, the allocations come primarily from local and secondarily from county governments. We get no direct state or federal support. Pennsylvania’s system of funding is different, though I don’t know enough about it to go into the details. I’ve always wondered about the funding sources for the Warren library. If I recall correctly, it is referred to as the Warren Public Library Association. There are no local library associations in Wisconsin, as far as I know. It’s never been clear to me how that structure differs from a library that is almost wholly funded by tax dollars. I thought I read a quote by the library director that 21% of the Warren library’s revenue comes from non-tax sources. That’s unheard of in Wisconsin. I suspect the Warren library must have quite an endowment fund. Even growing up, I was impressed by the number of gift books that were added to the collection. The Times-Mirror would regularly publish long lists of recently added titles. And I don’t recall a library having so many gift plates on the inside covers of the books in its collection. It seemed like every other book was in memory of someone or purchased with special funds.

It’s a shame that the county can’t work cooperatively with the library. Youngsville, Sheffield, and Sugar Grover are battling over their little pieces of turf to no one’s benefit. Public libraries in Wisconsin have been working cooperatively for more than 30 years, in some cases. Middleton is a member of the Dane County Library Service and the South Central Library System, the latter a consortium of 47 public libraries in 7 counties. As a result, we are able to provide a level of service that would be impossible if we were on our own. Our computer catalog provides access to the holdings of 30 libraries (most of the smallest libraries in our system are not yet automated) totaling almost 2,000,000 items – books, magazines, videos, compact discs, books on tape, etc. Items requested from other libraries are oftentimes here within a day or two. If we went back to the old days, the people here would revolt. OK, now I’m sounding like a commercial, but Wisconsin really does have an excellent network of libraries. As a result, I have had a richly rewarding professional life for the past 20 years here. (20 years! That just floors me sometimes when I ponder that number in the context of where I’ve been.)

No comments: