The Commerce Journal

April 17, 2014

City of Commerce needs to help library

The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — To the editor:

On April 3, the Commerce Public Library was approached by 15 citizens who took shelter there from a tornado threat and hail storm. Everyone went to the basement for safety because the siren was blowing. Later when they came up to see if the storm had passed, they found rainwater pouring through a four inch in diameter hole in the ceiling. Rain was also dripping through the light fixtures. All of this occurred in the children’s section over the stacks of books. All of the Commerce citizens helped the library personnel move the books and most of the books survived.

Now everyone in town has seen our Greek Revival Library building on Park Street. It is a beautiful old building despite the lack of care from the city for many years. Obviously many people in Commerce think it is well built and run to it during storms. The library building is a landmark and anchors the east side of downtown. Should it be abandoned to fall into greater disrepair?

I feel sorry for the board that runs this library. They have been trying to maintain the building, staff, and book stacks on very little money. These men and women have tried all kinds of fundraisers, and are even now in the midst of their membership campaign. I’m sure they are exhausted because it has been a thankless job trying to repair the building and keep it running.

Many people in our community use this library. I am often surprised to think that such an educated community with a university would allow such a dilapidated building to house our books. Lending libraries have been a tradition since Benjamin Franklin started the first in revolutionary days. Yet, our attitude toward the library is despicable. We have ignored it until it is now a safety hazard for very young children. I know the city has found money for cosmetic changes to an airport that very few of us will ever use. But they can’t find the money to replace the roof on the library. How much will it cost the city when the ceiling collapses on some young children and mothers? This whole situation is embarrassing and shameful.

Every child should be able to hold a large storybook with beautiful illustrations in their hands. A Kindle can’t replace the tactile feel of a large book. Older people who have shelves of books in their houses may not want to buy another book from Amazon, so they frequent the library. People who can’t afford a computer come there to look for jobs or to do research. I know of two people that are using the library to obtain materials for books they are planning to write.

So my question is, when is this city going to make a decision? Either start repairing the building or build a new facility that is up to date and safe. Which choice will be cheaper? Please do not wait until there is an accident. And do not do a piecemeal job on that roof. Replace it with a good, quality roof. There are many towns around us that take care of their libraries. Why should we be such a poor example of scholarship and citizenship?

Bettina Zvanut