Library Wars

“Nelson started it.”

I was standing at the checkout desk at the Amherst County Public Library, inquiring about a book, when the young woman at the desk told me my card had expired. “No problem,” I said, and began to fish around in my wallet for $15.00. The woman looked embarrassed and took my card into a side office. She returned with another woman who looked even more embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The fee has increased to $30.00.” Double? I said.

“Well, that’s what the Nelson library is charging our residents,” she said, “so we felt we had to do the same thing.”

I actually live in Nelson County and I have a library card for the public library in Lovingston, which is part of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system. But because we’re frequently in Amherst, I also have an Amherst library card. I can get my book group books there a little faster (because the rest of my book group gets the book of the month from the Nelson library). We only have dial-up Internet access at our house, so we also use the high-speed access at the Amherst library. The cost of our library card in Nelson is $0, because we’re residents. Up until recently, the cost of the library card in Amherst was $15.00 (per year), because we’re non-residents. My husband and I save gas by using this library, the books are more readily available, and the Internet is faster. We figured that was worth the $15.00 price of admission. But $30.00?

When I asked someone at the library in Lovingston about this, she said, “Well Albemarle started it.”

What is this, second grade? I thought. Turns out that people from Fluvanna and even Buckingham were using the libraries in Albemarle County. (And who knows what that could lead to—more reading maybe? A better educated public?) Something had to be done.

Remember, the cost of a card is $0 if you’re a resident. The card is good pretty much forever, as far as I can tell. The cost of a non-resident card is now $30.00 EVERY SINGLE YEAR. That’s a lot.

I have a Library of Virginia card. No charge. Because I was doing some research in my hometown, the librarian at the Hopewell public library issued me a card. When I asked the fee, she stared at me as though I were a creature from another planet. “Ma’am,” she said as if I’d attempted to take away her constitutional rights, “we do not charge people to use the library.” Some libraries, it seems, want as many people as possible to use their resources. Encourage it, even.

Virginians, here’s the thing: your state tax dollars went to all of these libraries to buy – wait for it – the books. And some public libraries are perfectly willing to charge you a yearly fee to check them out for yourselves, your shut-in relatives and your children.

As it happens, a number of people from Fluvanna are willing to pay the fee so that they can use the library closest to their house or to their place of work. (Never mind that they pump money into the local economy in other ways—they shop in Albemarle, eat in Albemarle,buy gas in Albemarle…) But I wonder how many people, once turned away, have trouble making it to a less convenient library. Now that I’ve looked into it, I, for one, will not be paying $30.00 every year to check out books that I helped pay for. Further proof that a little education, after all, is a dangerous thing.

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Say It Isn’t So

So many catastrophes and controversies have occupied the air waves and other media over the last couple of weeks— the typhoon in the Philippines, unrest in the Middle East, the NSA spy scandal, the state of the Affordable Care Act, and yes, another crazy takes a gun into a shopping mall and lets loose— that we barely tilt an ear to them now.

Rather, what captures our attention is a larger tragedy: BULLYING IN THE NFL.

It’s hard to get on with our daily lives knowing that somewhere a rookie got stuck with his teammates’ entire bar bill. We’re tormented by the painful images we now carry with us of young linebackers forced to schlep gear from the field to the equipment room. The taunting in the locker room.

Right here in America. And it’s been going on for years. Forget cover-ups by the Catholic Church. Never mind oppressive foreign regimes. This time it’s our gladiators.

Not only does Sports Illustrated interview Bully-of-the-Century Richie Incognito, SI devotes additional space to interviewing the interviewer of Incognito. It’s that big.

And now here I am devoting space to it. So let me close with this: Bullying in our classrooms is one thing. Internet bullying, something else again. But bullying in the NFL? Somebody do something! Like change the subject.