Public Libraries Need Your Voices

By Karla Brown, President of the Friends of the Decorah Public Library

Dear Editor:

Iowa has the highest number of libraries per capita of any state in the nation, but unfortunately our libraries are under attack in the state legislature. People who support public libraries should oppose attempts this week to take away local control of those libraries. When Senate Study Bill 3131 met with a groundswell of opposition midweek and did not make it out of committee, a similar House Study Bill 678 was passed out of subcommittee on a two-to-one vote—and the Senate has a new version SSB3168 to be discussed soon.

The current system of public library boards consisting of local citizens giving free labor who are appointed by mayors and approved by city councils is working well. Board members receive training to develop a deep understanding of libraries and library governance and work with library staff in a structure set by the Code of Iowa, a structure that includes a rural representative. The misguided HSB678 would get rid of local boards and shift that work to city councils and city managers, who already have plenty to do and would not have the time to develop expertise or focus appropriately on libraries, thus opening themselves up to legal liabilities. Rural representatives would also be disenfranchised with no vote or voice on the make-up of the City Council.

If you value the 543 public libraries in Iowa, let your elected representatives know your opposition to micromanaging libraries and placing an undue burden on city staff. Send a message that you want control of libraries kept with local citizen volunteers and oppose changing an approach that is working well.

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