By Mary Quass & Patrick Deignan / Guest Opinion
On Nov. 3, the citizens of Cedar Rapids will be asked to vote for a levy to support the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It is important for residents to vote yes because the library serves so many purposes. One of the key purposes is to spur economic growth and workforce development for this community.
The libraries of today are much more than repositories of books. Our public library is a resource every citizen in our community can use to better themselves. There are many reasons why Cedar Rapids needs an active library system, but here are a few:
- Our library is a resource for the stay-at-home mom who wants to earn extra money for her family, but cannot run her Etsy business from home because she cannot afford the Internet or a computer.
- Our library helps a business owner who cannot yet purchase equipment and furniture to set up video conferencing for interviewing applicants.
- Our library aids an out-of-state visitor who has a job interview and needs a copy of his or her resume printed before going.
- Our library is a resource for a senior citizen who enjoys the interaction of a book club, and gives them the sense that they matter.
Our library provides the information and the tools needed to grow and expand the horizons of the child, the student, the businessperson and the retiree – all residents of our community.
As a hub in this community, the library was host to nearly 123,000 people who attended meetings last year, an increase of more than 810 percent compared to 2007. Businesses and nonprofits use library meeting spaces because they are economical, attractive, state-of-the-art and convenient. This phenomenal use of the library since it opened clearly demonstrates that there is pent-up demand for its services. What business wouldn’t be happy with such an increase in demand?
That use is indicative of the symbiotic relationship between the library, the city and its residents. The better educated, informed and curious our residents, the better the city is as a whole. When residents believe in their community and the services it provides, the happier they are in the community; the happier they are, the more they want to improve, prosper and grow. Committed residents build better communities. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The better our workforce, the more prosperous our residents and the community.
Although there is currently not a levy, we had one in place between 1985 and 2014 for the purchase of materials only. We are now coming back to put it in place again to support a funding gap. In Iowa, levies are the mechanism libraries use to support operations, renew technology and expand collections. This levy will allow us to maintain current services and programs as well.
Before there was only one Cedar Rapids library location. Today, it will help support two locations: downtown and an expanded and permanent Ladd Library on the west side. The library is a community asset that has clearly been embraced by our citizens. It only makes sense to use the most effective and efficient tools available to the community under state law to pay for them.
Some of us are natives to Cedar Rapids and others have been transplanted, but either way we all want to be proud of where we live. That pride comes from community members who had the foresight to understand a vibrant library is necessary. As citizens of the community we need to continue that role and provide for the future.
It just makes good sense to support the Cedar Rapids Public Library levy. As residents and business owners, we have a responsibility to pay it forward, and this is a great way to make our community better with everyone’s help.
Mary Quass is chairman and CEO of NRG Media LLC, a radio and digital company headquartered in Cedar Rapids, with 45 AM/FM stations and 29 streaming stations in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Patrick Deignan is president and CEO of Bankers Trust Company, Cedar Rapids, an Iowa-based full-service community bank.