Many Multnomah County voters are wary of a permanent increase (though quite a small one) on assessed value taxes, an understandable stance given our current economic woes. However, I implore these voters to consider the many services and opportunities the library provides and may improve upon if this measure is successful, by creating a solid funding base allowing for extended hours (which were recently cut greatly) and a system of stability. In more ways than one, the Multnomah County Public Libraries are one of our greatest resources in fighting poverty and instigating community improvement.
Though the highly literate are often naturally associated with intelligence and success, statistical documentation of the correlation provides a more concrete basis for this commonly held understanding. One example of a study supporting the effect of reading upon IQ-enrichment, What Reading Does For the Mind, was conducted by Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich published in 2001. In essence, the study found that the more people read, the stronger their “vocabulary and cognitive structures,” regardless of innate ability (Cunningham, 147). The authors reccomend providing as many reading opportunities as possible.
Despite recent challenges to the validity of IQ tests, they are widely utilized, and have been shown to be key indicators of and predictors for socioeconimc status and achievement in studies such as that included in 1994’s The Bell Curve, a seminal work by psychologist Richard J. Hernstein and political scientist Charles Murray. One of the most common criticisms of intelligence quotient tests is that are created with a strong cultural bias. This argument is also strong and widely-supported. Unfortunately, this cultural bias also extends to the schools who administer the tests, and far beyond the educational system as well. Like it or not, these tests have become a part of our society, and their labeling of students and workers can directly effect their quality of life and level of opportunities. Why not provide people with a free opportunity to drastically improve their chances for success?
This is exactly one of the key goals of Multnomah County Public Libraries: “patrons will find resources, programs and support to improve their lives and contribute to the economic health and vitality of this community”. Multnomah County Public Libraries exist to serve the community, and they do so in more ways than just providing free books. They also provide computer literacy, job-seeking and multilingual classes, as well as programs prompting children in becoming avid readers early in life, as Associate Professor Cunningham found likeliest to promote early literacy skills and improve cognitive development. The library provides computer access, a variety of games, periodicals, music, DVDs, and books, and does so using ever-evolving ecofriendly methods. It serves as host to a multitude of community activities and events, including everything from local film screening competitions to story hours to.guest speakers to chess hours. Supporting reading for all, the library even includes outreach services, and provides a safe haven for “at-risk” individuals. Where else are so many services provided to so many different citizens so accessibly?
So, when weighing whether or not a rather insignifcant tax increase is a blow to our struggling economy, I ask that Multnomah County Voters keep in mind all the costs that NOT supporting our public libraries may incur down the road. Also, consider how much energy is wasted by so frequently having to vote on temporary levies for an institution which clearly benefits the community, as evidenced by its second-largest city public library circulation rate in the nation, coming after only New York. Our library provides a safe place for people from all walks of life to learn, to improve themselves, and to succeed. It is much more than a rental service: it is a resource, a school, and a safe haven. Can we, as a community, really afford to fund this temporarily?
Current supporters of Measure 26-143 include:
- The League of Women Voters of Portland
- Both Portland mayoral candidates, Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales
- Friends of the Library
- The Portland Tribune
For those interested in learning more about this topic, donating funds to aid in campaigning for the passing of Measure 26-143, or volunteering to aid the Libraries Yes! campaign, I recommend visiting http://www.librariesyes.com/.
I would like to thank library administrative staff member Shawn Cunningham for his assistance in locating material relevant to this positng.
Aiona, Debbie. “2012-10-Support Measures.” League of Women Voters: Portland. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://lwvpdx.org/issues-and-advocacy/action-committee- news/testimony/2012-10-support-measures>.
Cunningham, Anne E., and Keith E. Stanovich. “What Reading Does For the Mind.” Journal of Direct Instruction. N.p., 2001. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.
“Good Libraries Make a Great Community Get Involved.” Why a Library District. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.librariesyes.com/why-a-library-district>.
Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles A. Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: Free, 1994. Print.
“Multnomah County Library Priorities 2012-2015.” Strategic Plan. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.multcolib.org/priorities/>.
“My Ballot.” Multnomah County Measure 26-143: Form Library District. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://onyourballot.vote411.org/race-detail.do?id=10961918>.
“Our Opinion: Say Yes to School Bond, Library District.” Portland Tribune. Pamplin Media Group, 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <http://portlandtribune.com/pt/10-opinion/116268-our-opinion–say-yes-to-school-bond-library-district>.
Slovic, Beth. “Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith Joust over Differences before Portland City Club.” OregonLive.com. OregonLive LLC, 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/10/charlie_hales_and_jefferson_sm_2.html>.