116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids' public library system has two top-notch, high-quality facilities downtown and on the west side. It circulated 1.4 million materials last year, more than any other library in Iowa, and drew more than 600,000 patrons.
Its meeting rooms were used by more than 120,000 people. Its computers logged 136,000 sessions. The number of local residents taking part in programs has more than doubled.
Cedar Rapids is home to participatory libraries that offer much more than books. Its facilities educate, inform, provide access to technology and encourage the community to gather together, seven days a week. But what they lack is a stable, permanent source of funding.
That's what the Cedar Rapids Public Library is asking voters to provide Nov. 3, through a 27-cent property tax levy.
It would collect roughly $1.6 million annually for library operations.
We urge voters to vote yes.
It's important for us to disclose that The Gazette Company, of which The Gazette is a part, has contributed $8,000 to the Our Library, Our Community Campaign Committee, which is backing the levy. Our decision to endorse the levy was made before that donation, which had no bearing on our deliberations.
It should come as no surprise that we support the library's core missions, which have reached beyond library walls into the community to boost childhood reading, among other efforts. It's an indispensable, accessible and well-used institution, and we'd like to keep it that way.
The library now is receiving a $669,000 stopgap funding package from the city that goes away after the current budget year. It's also receiving more than $250,000 from its foundation, contributions that should be used to enhance and augment the library's mission, not keep its lights on. And the city has issued $500,000 in bonded debt to buy library materials in the current budget year.
The $1.6 million raised by the levy would replace those funds, freeing up the foundation to do its work and putting the library on a pay-as-you go plan for buying materials. A fragile patchwork budget would become stable and predictable.
If the levy fails, library officials contend they'll need to consider closing the city's libraries one day per week, and likely will be forced to curtail community programming outside the library. In short, without a stable source of funding, there will be less access to a city service that's essential to thousands of residents.
Our participatory libraries will offer fewer chances to participate.
No tax increase should be taken lightly. But our trepidation about higher taxes is more than offset by our desire to see Iowa's best public libraries fulfill their mission and flourish. Their value to the community is clear, as is the need for our support.
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