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Southern California VOICES

Followup: 'A Voluntary Charge for Library Cards'

July 19, 1993|BEN WARNER

Los Angeles — In response to the Community Essay on libraries (Voices, June 28, by David Wysocki), I'd like to describe a library fund-raising idea--a voluntary $15 per year per user (or per family) charge for library cards.

1) The charge would be voluntary, would not entitle those who pay to any special privileges and would not deny basic library services to those who do not pay.

2) It would give parents and other interested parties a relatively painless way to help support libraries.

3) It would not replace fund-raising programs now carried on by libraries. It might even help produce more and larger corporate and individual gifts.

We're paying for many government services that were formerly "free." Why not libraries?

I've proposed this to library directors and elected officials here and in Sacramento, three times enclosing $15 as a starter. My contributions were politely accepted, but the idea didn't excite anyone--not even enough to answer, in most cases. One reply cited a California law requiring basic library services to be free. If the idea is illegal, revisiting the law doesn't seem insurmountable.

A campaign stressing low cost and big benefits would be needed. (Pasadena's recent library tax success shows that a grass-roots effort can work.) Whatever its shortcomings, I think the idea deserves a test.

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