Sigh. I’m going to have to stop checking the newsfeeds before doing my morning post. Yesterday, idiocy in education sidetracked me. Today, it is idiocy in local government. Worse, it is idiocy in my own state–not that we’re immune to it, especially the closer you get to Austin or Houston. Still, it made me bring out the soapbox again and all because a handful of people and members of the Llano County Commissioner’s Court think it more important to keep a dozen books out of the hands of the children than it is it keep three–THREE–public libraries open.
It all started out when a dozen or so books were challenged and then removed from the library for being inappropriate for children to read. The issue didn’t end there. When a challenge to the removal was denied, it was taken to court. Fast-forward a bit and the court said the books had to be returned to the shelves.
Well, you can imagine the response from those who wanted them removed in the first place. In a move that reeked of a toddler having a fit, those folks–as well as some of the Commissioner’s Court–decided the only option available to them was to close the three libraries in the system.
Yes, you read that right. They actually considered closing the libraries over a dozen or so books.
Fortunately for those who live in Llano County, the CC knew better than to do so without having a public hearing.
And boy did they have a hearing last night. According to reports, it was possibly the most well-attended CC meeting in the county’s history. Police had to turn people away because so many showed up. More than that, so many people wanted to address the court that they were limited to only two minutes.
The meeting wasn’t short. Both sides let the members of the CC know how they felt and why. In a move I hope others take note of, one member of the community reminded the members of the CC where the power really lay:
“I want to bring up the point that you all work for us. We are your constituents, you are public servants, and I believe that the large majority of Llano County wants to keep this library,” Scoggins said. “I think we are afraid that a very loud squeaky-wheel minority group in this town, this county, are driving this issue. For y’all’s sake I would not want you all to be associated with this decision, because it would be in the history books. And then secondly, next election season, you’re gonna have competition … There’s enough anger here.”
This is something too many of us–and far too many politicians on all levels–forget.
It is a lesson the folks in the small town I live in learned more than a decade ago when our own library closed (as well as the rec center, senior center, etc.) when folks didn’t think about the impact a tax roll back would have on the city coffers. A few loud voices started the snowball rolling down the proverbial hill and suddenly the city no longer had money to meet the budget. The only way to insure they continued minimal basic services–like police and fire–cuts had to be made elsewhere.
Parents quickly learned how much their children relied on the library for help with school–or how much parents relied on the library for things like story time for toddlers or science clubs for the older kids. City parks were now in danger of being closed, including pools. Where were their kids supposed to play and swim safely during the summer?
It truly was a situation where reality came crashing down with a bang. Very quickly, the community marshalled itself and funding was found to reopen at least the library. Another vote was held and the rollback was rolled back. But the city did its part too. It started looking more closely at the budget and making better decisions about how to spend city money. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but it is better than it had been and it is a far cry from what the city had been when I was a kid and we lived in a neighboring city.
The reality of what happens when you suddenly lose your library is something I’m fairly confident those in Llano County advocating for closing the library didn’t think about. Nor did they consider the fact the law suit against the county would continue even if the library system shuttered. If the court ruled the county acted in an arbitrary fashion, etc., in removing the books in question, that ruling would more than likely apply if the county shuttered the system and then, at some later day, decided to open a “new” library.
In other words, this is one of those situations where shutting down the library system would be nothing more than cutting off the CC’s nose to spite its face. Thankfully, it decided against giving itself a nose job last night. Here’s hoping it keeps to that decision in the weeks and months and years to come.
On a different note, the next chapter of Surtr’s Fury is now available on my Substack. Check it out.