Library Questions

a speech by Paulette Dickerson

Chair, Montgomery County Library Board


On behalf of the Montgomery County Library Board, I would like to ask you to appropriate monies for the development of the new libraries that have been proposed, to include in the Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries' operating budget the funds needed to complete the acquisition and implementation of the NGS (Next Generation System) computer network, and to add funds to staff Sunday service at more branches.

I would like the Library to be open nine-to-nine from Monday through Saturday, and nine-to-five on Sundays, all year 'round. This might cost two or three times what the County Executive has proposed for the Library budget. But I think the Library system is worth it.

When I began writing this testimony, I wanted to figure out what the focus should be. To help myself, I began to write a list of questions, and at a certain point, I knew that the questions were my answer. These are the things that I would like you to consider coming into the next fiscal year.

Why do we have libraries? Who are they for? What should they be like? Should a library be proactive or reactive? What kind of Library System do you think we have? How often do you use the library? What's the difference between research and recreation? Should we have specialized service by community demographics? Are there any patrons who get consistently better service, or consistently worse service? Can we improve service without spending money, or much money? What should a library branch look like? Should we have a central or main branch? If people can use the catalog, reference materials, and the Internet from home or work, what are the buildings for? If we have a circulating library for regulars, what do we do for "newbies"? Which would you prefer, books or technology? Or more staff? Which would you prefer, best-sellers or classics? Which would you prefer, children-specialized service or adult-specialized service? Which would you prefer, books for the literate, or literacy programs? What kinds of tools do you want to use? Do you prefer to use an electronic collection or a physical collection? Do we have to choose? Do you want fries with that? Coffee? Music? Puppets? When the Library markets itself to the Community, what is it selling?

How much would you risk to prove that you are for libraries?

Do advocates for County service always have to fight for the biggest slice of pie? Can we go for a bigger pie? Can we get some of the pie Marriott is eating? How much do County services count for the attractiveness of Montgomery County? If the schools, roads, playing fields, libraries, fire and police departments count for something, can we get larger appropriations for all of those entities? What if the Library System threatened to move to Northern Virginia? Could we get more funds then?

In some ways, I think the Library system is like your maiden aunt. She always knows what's going on; she has lots of time; she staffs the church bazaar, or makes calls for the UJA; she shows up for school programs if you are too busy to go; if she lives nearby, the kids can come to her house after school; she helps out with homework; she reads her favorite books to them; she babysits; and she's always around. You don't have to pay much for her services --- maybe carfare. She's almost exactly like the Library system. Maybe you should take her out to dinner some time.

This speech was written by Paulette Dickerson and given by her at the Montgomery Council Budget Operating Hearing, in Rockville, Maryland on 7 April 1999.

Paulette Dickerson P.O. Box 598 Kensington, MD. 20895-0598
Private Citizen / Library Advocate

Comic Book ESP
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August Wilson
Free To All
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Library Heaven
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Tight Times
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Send comments or suggestions to:
E-Mail: "pdickerson (at)"
Paper Mail: Paulette Dickerson, P.O.Box 598, Kensington, MD 20895-0598, USA

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