Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Free parking for all library users

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The County Council should not support a discriminatory policy that mandates free parking at the Potomac library and paid parking at the Silver Spring, Bethesda and Rockville libraries (‘‘Library patrons could begin paying to park,” May 7 article).

The relatively modest cost for maintaining non-discriminatory free parking at all library locations should be viewed from the perspective of the County Council treating itself and county employees to daily free parking at work, at taxpayer’s expense.

Irwin Charles Cohen, Rockville

Some County Council members have proposed to discontinue funding the limited free parking for library patrons in Rockville, or to revoke the council’s resolution that, in April 2006, authorized free parking at all public libraries. Either action would violate the implicit social contract that recognizes the right of all county residents of free access to all our public libraries.

Libraries are important to every segment of society — the very young, students, businesspeople, immigrants, disabled and seniors. We use libraries to learn and to attain a better life. No wonder that one-half of this county’s residents own library cards and that about seven million visit our libraries each year.

This council has supported our libraries by constructing new libraries, renovating old ones, funding children’s programs and adding foreign language collections that reflect our diverse population.

Granted, free parking costs money, but so do schools and other vital public services. Granted also, free public parking may be abused. In such case, the proper remedy is to fix such abuse through technology, not to eliminate free parking. Sure free parking burdens the budget, but it’s at least as important as free or subsidized parking for members of the County Council, their staffs and many other county employees.

If this county is to remain great, it will be because its leaders and citizens respect learning. It would be unworthy of this council to renege on its obligation support of this critical public service.

Jacques Gelin, Rockville