A better library benefits everyone | June 21, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 21, 2013

A better library benefits everyone

Last week, the City Council supported adding $50,000 to next year's library budget for new books, CDs, and DVDs and other materials, restoring cuts made in 2009. This one-time bump helps, but the city's per capita spending on library materials will still be lower than that of comparable cities, according to statistics collected by the state.

The library's materials budget took a $50,000 hit in the 2009-10 fiscal year, a cut that's been carried through ever since. Last year, the library budget included $449,250 for materials and supplies, according to Roseanne Macek, the library services director.

Even with this year's rosier revenue projections, council members were hesitant to restore the $50,000 for more than a one-time basis, voting 6-0 to approve the funding for next year only.

For a city with a proposed budget of $97.5 million, restoring this $50,000 isn't going to break the bank. Books and other media, especially e-books, aren't getting any cheaper. In fact, electronic editions cost two to five times as much as the old-fashioned paper kind, library staff reports. After four years of budget cuts, the library's collection needs a bigger boost.

While library patrons who responded to a December survey were pretty happy with the library's collection overall, there are a few areas that need help, Macek said: getting more copies of popular new books and DVDs; replacing battered old DVDs, especially in the children's collection; and getting more e-book titles.

Of course, libraries offer far more than just a place to borrow books and movies. It's no stretch to say that there's something for everyone at the library. Every month there's an array of free events at the Mountain View Library, from bilingual story times, teen and children's programs to book groups and classes for adults. In the coming weeks, there's a soldering workshop, classes in conflict mediation and basic computer skills — even 3-D printing demonstrations.

But beyond all that, libraries offer something more, something that continues to be valuable even in this digital age of instant gratification in the search for information. A library is a tangible storehouse of our collective knowledge. It's a place to discover new worlds, pursue new interests and simply, lose yourself in a good book. Scrolling through Amazon's website is no replacement for wandering the stacks of a well-stocked library, pulling out a volume at random, and discovering a great read.

Rather than nickel-and-dime this widely used community asset, the City Council should be looking for ways to enhance it. The new budget's $50,000 boost is a good start, one we hope council members will see fit to further augment in the coming years.

Animal control law not up to scratch

The recent flap over the proposed animal control ordinance is a good lesson in the perils of allowing interest groups to write legislation. The model ordinance provided by the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority — recently adopted by Santa Clara and being considered by Campbell — has a number of flaws, not the least of which is the controversial clauses regarding cat licensing.

The new rules would require cats to get annual rabies shots and to wear collars with metal license tags at all times, theoretically to improve a cat's chances of being reunited with its family if it is picked up by animal control.

Anyone who's ever kept a cat doubtlessly has a lot of opinions about the near-impossibility of keeping a collar on a cat. There may be some tractable felines in the world who will gladly keep a collar on, but for many cat owners, it's an endless task that would make even Sisyphus blench.

If the impetus is truly to return cats to their owners, microchips, not collars and tags, are the obvious solution.

Feline rescue groups have spotted other flaws, including the problems that would face caretakers of feral cats, who have no owners. The regulations would put an onerous burden on those who do their best to make sure the cats are spayed or neutered, fed, and get veterinary care when needed. There's also a vigorous debate about the health risks of annual rabies shots, especially for house cats that are extremely unlikely to face exposure.

As the late Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson put it, when vetoing another unpopular set of regulations on cats and cat owners, "In my opinion ... local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency."

More to the point, as Councilman Jac Siegel so aptly put it, "I'm not sure what problem we are trying to solve."

Of course, cat license provisions are not the only problem with this poorly vetted ordinance. Banning dogs from city property, with the exception of dog parks and training facilities? How did that one slip by?

The council rightly responded by sending this back to the drawing board, after hearing from an outraged group of pet owners at last week's meeting. We expect that with much-needed public scrutiny and plenty of input from pet owners and animal rescue groups, a revised ordinance will emerge that won't cause fur to fly.


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