People read, cows don't

February 01, 1994

If Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell had been King Solomon, the story of the two women fighting over a baby would have had a much different ending. In the Biblical story, King Solomon's suggestion to divide the baby and give each of the women half prompted the baby's real mother to say she would rather lose her child than see it killed. If we can extrapolate from Mr. Dell's proposed solution in a dispute over a new location for a library branch for the northwest part of the county, he would have simply split the infant right down the middle.

The mayors of Union Bridge and New Windsor each want the branch library located in their town. The plain fact is that Carroll County cannot afford to build two libraries. Since one of these two deserving towns will not get the branch library, Mr. Dell apparently believes the solution is to spread the disappointment equally. He wants to build the branch midway between them in Linwood.

While Mr. Dell's solution has an appearance of fairness and equity, its underlying premise is simplistic and short-sighted. Libraries are in the service business. If they are doing a good job, their patrons borrow large numbers of books, magazines, records, videos and tapes. But if libraries are to be well-patronized, they must be conveniently located. That is why libraries usually are built near large concentrations of people who can drive, bike or walk to these branches.

Locating a library that may cost more than $500,000 in a country village like Linwood makes no more sense than locating a Wal-Mart or a McDonald's there. With a population of fewer than 100, Linwood might be home to more cows than people.

In order to visit this branch, the several thousand residents of New Windsor and Union Bridge would have to get in their cars and drive. While the distance might be shorter than the current trip to the Westminster or Taneytown libraries, a Linwood branch, for all intents and purposes, still would be equally inaccessible.

We can sympathize with Commissioner Dell. In choosing between Union Bridge and New Windsor, the commissioners invariably will alienate the residents of the town without the library. But the reality is that locating this branch library is one of those tough decisions elected officials have to face up to. Trying to take the easy way out by putting the proposed library in Linwood would be politically cowardly and wrong.

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