Library on the levy

A tax levy is up for vote on May 8th, and it includes a tax increase for the library system. Is it worth it?


The main library in downtown Cincinnati

Coming up on May 8, a vote on the library levy will be placed on the ballot. The library wants to raise taxes $35 per $100,000 home value in order to maintain the 25+ branches in Hamilton County. Here, we at The Purple Quill take a look at some of the functions of the library system and the pros and cons of this levy.

The Price Hill library. It was built in 1909 and is in desperate need of renovation.

The public library system has over 25 branches in our area. Some of these, such as the Walnut Hills and Price Hill branch, have not been renovated in decades, or even a century in some cases. While some branches, such as the main library downtown, are in great condition, others are in desperate need of repair. Air conditioners are breaking, meeting rooms are getting run down, and utilities (such as internet, electricity, and water) are becoming more expensive, among other issues. We have a great library system in Hamilton County that provides way more than simple books and movies (although those books can be very helpful).

Every library in our area provides free internet access for everyone who walks in. For someone who might not have internet access at home or doesn’t even have a home, the internet is a great tool for lifting themselves up and learning to make a better life for themselves. The internet is a vital part of many careers today, and libraries provide an easy way for people to begin to create a better life for themselves.

People can take classes to obtain a GED or higher level education with a computer and can get help with those classes from library staff and tutors that some libraries provide. Speaking of them, many libraries have after school tutors (mainly for grade school students) that help students who might not have parents who are available to take time and work on homework with them. Without the help of these tutors (who are often free to the student), students could fall behind in school, which could lead to a very different outcome in life than a student who received a tutor’s help and succeeded in school.

Another utility of the library are the social gatherings. Every library has meeting rooms where groups can come together and do whatever they want (within reason, obviously. And the meeting has to be open to anyone, but most people won’t bother with an event held by a group). These meeting rooms also hold many of the library’s events, such as a movie night, battle of the bands, tax classes, Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and many other things. Library calendars are packed with events like these and nearly all of them are free to the public. These events offer a safe place for people to meet and have a good time without spending money.

The Walnut Hills library. Built in the late 19th century, it has never been renovated. Part of the new levy would be used for renovations, especially here.

Supporters of the library are strong and united for this cause. They’ve raised $100,000 and have sent out a marketing campaign with the slogan “It’s Important” to billboards and yard signs across the city. Supporters are hoping that the levy passes, as it has in years past, in order to secure renovations for the older branches and continue to reach out to more people.

If the levy passes, the property tax per $100,000 value will be around $70 per year. Even if that happens, Hamilton County residents would still pay less than in other cities. Cleveland residents pay $96 per year and Columbus people pay $104, and they have fewer libraries than us. That’s the only real negative here.

No major opposing party has shown up in the public eye to challenge the library. However, one anonymous library worker said that he had a few problems with supporting the library. “In my branch in particular, I have seen a significant bias against certain opinions, which I don’t think should be present in this type of publicly funded institution.  I will likely vote for the levy anyway because the positives outweigh the negatives, but I hope that this will change in the future.”

We’ll just have to see where the levy goes. If it passes, we’ll see more library programs opening up and more library workers being hired (at least, that’s what the chief library director Kimber L. Fender is saying). If not, we’ll have to wait another year or two to see those renovations, but taxes will remain low (well, low in the sense of the library tax. Your opinions on taxes in general are your opinions and I won’t get into those here). The vote is May 8. It’s your choice: save the libraries or save your wallet.