Library board is opportunity to give back

Most of the public attention surrounding last night’s City Council meeting was on the ongoing and longstanding debate over an events center. Yet item 29 of 31 on the agenda, a relatively innocuous item, was of more personal interest.

Just more than two hours into the meeting, the Council unanimously approved a resolution “advising and giving consent” to the appointment or reappointment of 18 people to various city boards and commission. I was at the bottom of page 1, having been appointed by the Mayor to the Siouxland Libraries Board of Trustees. I will be filling the term of someone leaving the board but am slated to serve until May 2013. Although my appointment doesn’t really become official until 20 days after the resolution has been published in the newspaper of record, I will attend next week’s board meeting, although as a member of the public.

Library boards aren’t — or at least shouldn’t be — political and I think my appointment speaks to that. I submitted an application when I saw there was a vacancy. It’s my understanding the current board reviewed the applicants and submitted a few names to the Mayor. I may have met the Mayor once or twice while he was in the private sector. I didn’t contribute to his (or anyone’s) mayoral campaign. In fact, I don’t even recall who I voted for in the general municipal election a year ago.

I am excited about the opportunity. Libraries face new challenges given that “the book is dying” and there’s increased pressure on public budgets at a time when the library is a lifeline for many without access to the resources it can provide. In addition, design work is supposedly underway for a new branch library in the area of town in which I live. I, of course, want to see that through to fruition. At bottom, though, it’s a very small bit of recompense for everything libraries gave and give me.

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission.

Toni Morrison, 1997

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