Editor’s note: See Sunday’s Life section for a full story on the Gainesville Symphony’s fundraising efforts.
I’ve always loved libraries. One of my earliest memories is of the afternoon my father sat me down for a little talk prior to my first foray as a bibliophile. I remember how he told me to always whisper; people were reading and they shouldn’t be disturbed. Then we practiced whispering.
My very first library book was Dr. Seuss’ “If I Ran the Zoo.” I read recently that it was the first modern-day book to use the word “nerd.” How appropriate.
To me, the Hall County Library was a magical place. In retrospect, it was tiny and cramped and shoved into the basement of City Hall with exposed water pipes overhead. But to my 4-year-old mind, it was enormous, packed with wonderful stories and pictures to be experienced an armload at a time.
I grew up with the summer reading club, meticulously tracking the books I’d read and the hours spent reading. I treasured my library card.
I’ve since moved on to other libraries. I spent untold hours in the Social Work reading room at the University of Alabama’s library, backlit by an enormous Tiffany stained-glass window donated almost a century ago by the Daughters of the Confederacy. It featured a knight, his sword lowered but head held high. There was the proclamation: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (“It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”)
These days, I’m dependent on the downtown Gainesville branch library to keep me supplied with audiobooks. The Internet and Google have diminished my need for in-house research but it’s nice to know the folks on the second floor still stand ready to help.
Our girls grew up going to storytime there. Our Rachel was a member of last year’s Teen Advisory Board. I’ve attended workshops on everything from jewelry-making to genealogy to coupon-clipping. The special-needs collection is a jewel and a godsend for people with disabilities that prevent them from enjoying standard publications.
I just can’t imagine a community without a library. I can’t imagine a community that would choose to do without one. One thing I know for sure: I wouldn’t want to live there.
Take, for example, Troy, Mich. In the summer of 2011, their award-winning public library was in danger of closing. The only way for it to remain open was for the voters to approve a 0.7 percent tax increase.
The local tea party was all over that like white on rice. They mounted a comprehensive campaign urging voters to check “no.” To them, any tax was an anathema, no matter the intended purpose.
Initially, given both the well-funded and well-organized tea party initiative and the usual voter apathy, the library stood about as much chance of surviving as a newspaper in a bonfire.
Then the signs started popping up around town: “Vote to Close Troy Library on Aug. 2 — Book Burning Party on Aug. 5.” Folks were horrified. Who would want to burn books? The outrage generated by this campaign turned the tide and refocused the issue.
Troy’s residents saw the connection between closing libraries and burning books and began thinking in terms of literacy and community essentials rather than simply the knee-jerk reaction of opposing new taxes.
Voters showed up in record numbers and the library was saved.
As it turns out, there wasn’t really a group piling up books to burn on the library steps. It was a guerrilla marketing move by the Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide ad agency. The campaign won an Effie award, the advertising world’s Oscar.
Good for them.
During these stressful times, priorities can get skewed. Sometimes we need a little shake to remind us of what really matters.
And with that segue, let me mention the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra. For the last several years, it has been struggling for funding. After all, the arts are the canaries in the mine of the economy. When times get tough, it’s the first line that’s slashed. Only through the Herculean efforts of devoted volunteers is the GSO still with us.
The GSO Patriotic Pops Concert is a north Georgia Independence Day tradition. This year it will be on Tuesday, July 3, on the lawn at Brenau University Amphitheater beginning at 7:30 p.m. The conductor, Lauren Green, is traveling from Oklahoma and donating his talents. Musicians are performing for free.
Admission for children under 7 is free; children 8-17 $5; adults $20; seniors 65 and older $18. This is a much needed fundraiser for the GSO.
Folks, the very least we can do is show up and show our support. Like the bumper sticker says: “‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is ‘eh’.”
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.