Recently, editorials in the local papers have stated, “the library is no place for politicians.” The same editorials also alluded that the elected Frederick County Board of Commissioners should have no oversight of the library publications and purchases. I disagree.
I am very proud of our local library system and the job they do. In fiscal 2011, the libraries had over 1.1 million walk-in visits and another 800,000 visits online. This equals 5,629 visits per day.
A good library also comes with a hefty price tag. In fiscal 2013, the county commissioners adopted a budget that expends $9,742,176 to the Frederick County Public Libraries system. This was an increase of $171,427, or 1.79 percent over the previous year. As a matter of fact, the fiscal year library budget from 2011, the last budget adopted by the previous county commissioners, was $8,362,162. This represented a budget cut of more than $400,000 from the 2010 budget by the previous Gardner/Hagen board of commissioners.
The term “politician” has an understandably bad connotation in our society, but that is the name given to those we elect to serve and represent us. I personally consider myself a citizen legislator. By serving and representing, every elected official has not only a right, but an absolute moral and fiscal obligation to ensure that all public monies are being well spent. Every county tax dollar spent is being closely scrutinized by this board.
As a guardian of the taxpayers’ money and by the power vested in me by the Maryland Constitution, it is my responsibility to see what our taxpayer dollars are purchasing. I want to know what equipment, services, books and materials we are getting. I have that right and obligation to ask these questions on behalf of the citizens of Frederick County. Nobody gets a blank check for $1 million on my watch.
In regard to the question of censorship, I not only believe, but I love and cherish our Constitution! I value every right and amendment, and I despise censorship! The only amendment closer to my heart than the First Amendment regarding free speech is the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. I do not advocate censoring materials.
Though several of the library materials seem actually ludicrous, I understand it is the library’s responsibility to make the purchases; after all, I do not have a degree in library science. I imagine that there is a great interest in checking out “The Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts.” I’m guessing that “The Antique Lamp Buyer’s Guide” is another essential volume of great interest to the library patrons. I’m not advocating removing from the library shelves either “Training Your Guinea Pig” or my favorite, “201 Modern Greek Verbs Fully Conjugated in All Tenses.” I might just go and check that out myself before I head to the beach. I also know DVDs such as “Mission Impossible,” “We Bought a Zoo” and “ 21 Jump Street” are quite essential to the intellectual community and future of our children. I can only wonder how I made it to this point in life without reading these classics?
I point out a few of these items to show just a partial listing of what Frederick County Public Libraries purchased last year. The printed list of materials was 1,200 pages long and almost 77,000 items, and I found these with merely a cursory review. I’m sure there are many additional nuggets of gold buried in the list.
I have a right to know what is procured with our tax money. When one has work done on an automobile, while we may not fully comprehend the labor and items replaced in the engine, we still want an itemized list of what we paid for.
While I ask for and expect this information from my car mechanic, I also expect it from my local government!
Finally, it should be noted that it was the library director’s idea to go to a quarterly versus annual budget and review of the materials purchased by the libraries. I thought the idea was brilliant!
Commissioner Billy Shreve is serving his first term on the Frederick County Board of Commissioners. He is a Republican from Frederick.