Preserve Library's 'Roots' Resource CARROLL COUNTY

January 04, 1993

Public libraries are, or should be, the heart of a community's cultural life. They pass on the accretion of human knowledge and culture to the present generation, while preserving and nurturing that record of our treasured past.

While libraries today are often compelled to deal in junk novels, scratched forgettable records and remaindered videos, they still are the principal repositories of a more lasting, significant cultural tradition that cannot be readily acquired from private retailers in the nearby mall.

That singular responsibility must be guarded, even as the library system struggles to cut costs and keep services.

It can't be done by simply equating the use of a certain service, or the per-unit cost of a service, with community needs and public mission. Rather, the library system should consider what it can offer that others cannot.

The Davis Room of the Westminster branch is a good example of that service, one that also enjoys active volunteer assistance. The room provides a centralized, easily accessible location for invaluable local family histories, involving many members of the Carroll County Genealogical Society.

Library Director Martha Makosky proposes to save $10,600 by closing the popular program, displacing the records and the genealogists to the Historical Society of Carroll County. That would be a small part of $101,000 in needed cuts from the system's current $4.2 million budget (and minuscule compared to $300,000 in required cuts for next fiscal year.)

We would urge that the library stay its hand by keeping the service, which yearly is used by 1,200 persons tracing family histories. The support services offered by the Westminster branch cannot be efficiently provided elsewhere.

The county library board should be looking at overall creative solutions to the budget squeeze, instead of delegating a new committee to get rid of the genealogical program as it did recently.

Budget reductions are not easy, especially as demand increases for library services. But shorter hours, higher non-resident fees to use the Davis Room, or even dropping Ms. Makosky's questionable plan to divert librarians to act as parking lot police would be better choices than stripping the county of this important cultural heritage.

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