Is there disparity among libraries in Lancaster County? Absolutely. Is the fund formula perfect? No. But here is where I stand:
1. Nobody understands what we're talking about. How libraries operate in Lancaster County is a hot mess. It's so difficult to explain to the public because it makes no sense whatsoever. I wasn't surprised at all the misconceptions of non-library folks. In fact, I'm still in disbelief about how little some of the library community don't really seem to understand it.
2. Library leadership confuses the issue. If you're going to have a discussion about business databases - the stated reason for the visit - then don't bring up other things that make the issue muddy. Like the funding formula. I was there to discuss databases and left pretty angry that leadership chose this moment to further their own agendas.
3. Being told something by one person does not mean it actually happened. Some folks in that first row made claims that were not accurate. How do I know? Because I was at the meeting where a misrepresented decision was made. And they weren't.
4. Service area is a myth. To say, "we serve 40% of the county's population" is not accurate. The correct statement should be "40% of the county's population lives in our service area." Nearly 50% of the visitors to my library do not live in my service area. Should I stop serving them? Should I send them to their home libraries? Some people, including some of my funders, believe I should do that. But I can't because the State Library Law says that's denial of access and I agree. But don't take credit for things that aren't true.
5. Invoking the name of someone (not at the meeting) isn't cool. Both sides of this argument used the State Librarian's name as some kind of "endorsement" of their side. That's stupid if she's not there to clarify her position.
6. Gray areas exist. Because the organizational structure of libraries in Lancaster County is so outdated and redundant, there seems to be more gray than black and white. This allows all sides of the argument to exploit these gray areas to influence public opinion. And they are doing it.
I sat in the commissioner's meeting wondering how we got here (again). I believe that this model has, indeed, run its course. I know I will once again have patrons visiting me, trying to understand the relation to my library and the childish squabbles in the paper. I try to explain but yesterday's histrionics make it even more difficult to do so.
The knot in my stomach is the same one I've experienced when my daughters used to fight when they were younger. And I feel like screaming the exact same thing - Grow up! Be kind to each other!
I had a lot of say yesterday. But I didn't. When I left I was so confounded that I spent at least 15 minutes in the parking garage trying to find my car. (Maybe it wasn't the meeting...but I'm sticking to that story.) I chose not to say anything because I firmly believe airing dirty laundry is a bad move in the world of public libraries.
In closing, I will once again urge all parties involved to do exactly what I told my daughters.
Grow up. Be kind to each other. Please.