The Commerce Journal

October 4, 2012

Public libraries are important cornerstones of American communities

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — As long as I can remember, I have always loved public libraries. I remember going to the Grand Prairie Public Library as a child and being completely in awe of the sheer amount of books. I was a voracious reader– I loved the Hardy Boys (the greatest book series ever), the Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. One summer, I read more than 100 books (what can I say, my parents didn’t really let me watch TV or play video games, except on the weekends, and the internet wasn’t that big of deal when I was a kid).

The idea that someone would go to the trouble of buying and shelving all those books, so that I could borrow up to six (six!) at a time was amazing. When I was younger, I would beg my mother to take me and my two brothers to the library.

When I was 10 or so, we moved to Quinlan, and there wasn’t much of a library to speak of, but I still read all of the interesting books at a small local library. Later, when my family moved to Greenville, I volunteered for two summers at the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library, and participated in their reading programs.

As I got older, I went to the library less and less. I got a computer, I watched more T.V., I got a job. I had plenty to read in college, and I often bought my books instead of borrowing them, simply because I could afford them and wanted to increase my personal collection. I still visited Texas A&M University-Commerce’s library from time to time to study, or check out books for a research paper. During finals, I would go up to the top floor, find a window seat, and study to Pink Floyd’s The Wall until they closed.

I’ve been to the Commerce Public Library occasionally. They were very helpful during a research project I was doing on downtown Commerce for a history class. I’ve enjoyed the library, which is certainly one of the most historically-interesting buildings in Commerce.

The Commerce Public Library does a lot more than check out books. They have a group of computers with internet access that are almost always being used. They have access to the TexShare Database, a huge internet-based resource that allows individuals to research everything from manuscripts to genealogies. Commerce residents can apply for passports at the library, and also get their passport picture taken there. They sponsor a summer reading program. The list goes on and on.

The Commerce Public Library relies on funding from the city of Commerce, as well as donations and fees from their services, to operate and to maintain their accreditation with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Recently, the Commerce City Council passed a budget for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 that cut 25 percent of the money the city contributes to the library. However, the city will continue to fund the library at least year’s levels until January, when they will revisit the subject. The library is currently discussing their accreditation with the state library and archives commission. The city and the board are obviously both concerned with the future of the library and, according to the board’s president, both parties have the best interests of the library at heart.

I don’t think the Commerce Public Library is going anywhere. But it certainly could use the support of the community, like the support it received from the Commerce Auto Group, which pledged to donate a dollar for every like their Facebook page got during the month of September; or the support they got from Amy Doster’s 13-year-old son Ethan, who donated all of the Christmas money he received last year to the library.

Libraries are still vital to our communities, and we need ours.