Librarians and the Legislature
You may not necessarily think of politics when you think of libraries, but specifically public librarians are keenly aware that the fortunes (literal and figurative) of public libraries are directly affected by what happens at the state level (in our case, the State of Indiana).
Over the past several years, we have seen the autonomy of our libraries continually assaulted in both implicit and explicit ways. There are several examples of this, but most recently, certain representatives in the Indiana House have tried repeatedly to insert or edit language in HB (House Bill) 1116 that, in our case, would strip the Hagerstown Library Board of its ability to approve the library’s budget and would put that power in the hands of county officials. I believe there are several reasons why this would be a devastating course of action that I will not expound on here. I have, however, included the text of a letter that I sent to Representative Saunders on behalf of our library.
My name is Ruth Frasur, and I am the director of the Hagerstown – Jefferson Township Library in Hagerstown, IN. As you may already be aware, the Library in Hagerstown was initially founded by the Progressive Club in 1915 and then gifted with a building and money for collections in 1928 by Charlie Teetor, a local inventor and entrepreneur, and his family. The Hagerstown Library is funded by taxpayers with the lion’s share of funding coming from property owners in Jefferson Township, Wayne Co. The library is a source of pride for our residents and an example of how tax monies can be used, on a local level, in a conscientious, relevant, and direct way for the service of our community members.
Recently, several attempts have been made in the Indiana legislature to insert or edit language that deals implicitly with the ability of Indiana public libraries to manage their own finances. Specifically, language inserted into HB1116 would strip tax-funded institutions with non-elected boards of the ability to approve their own budgets. I, and my colleagues, believe that this is unnecessary because of existing checks and balances.
I ask you to continue to support the independence and objectivity of Indiana public libraries by maintaining their management by local library boards. Public library trustees are appointed by local elected officials and have a notable history of being financially responsible and responsive to their taxpayers. Public library trustees serve their communities out of genuine civic-mindedness and a love for a fair, equitable society. As public servants, serving without compensation but with diligence, they have earned the respect and continued confidence of Indiana citizens, and should continue to be the independent governing authorities of our public libraries. Thank you for your attention to this matter.