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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Compare yourself to others? You?

‘Fess up! You see news articles like the one from Gannett News Service in the Tennessean today and immediately check your own public library status in the database. . Would you be shocked to read a statement like this, "Tennessee has some of the worst-funded, least-visited libraries in the nation."? Ouch! Fortunately the article goes on to explain.

I agree with the statements from the state library. TN has wonderful hard-working librarians who do much with hardly anything. I don’t blame the librarians for our troubles but those in control of the budgets for materials and building. We are in an economic hardship and more people are using the library than ever nation-wide. TN needs funding to meet the needs.

Whenever I visit my local library in Mt. Juliet, the place is packed crazily! There are so many people of all demographics using the library that there aren’t enough chairs or space. Don’t get me started on the lack of space for teens there! I know the director Nancy intends for a teen space if they ever get to expand. The summer reading program is packed. In the 11 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen the library expand once, but it was not enough to handle the population and needs. Perhaps if we had a local property tax we could fund our services and even have a city fire department?

I use the Nashville Public Library for my school needs. The services they offer are tremendous. Being able to search for books while at school and have them delivered to the most convenient branch for pickup anywhere in the city is a great benefit. Look at the difference in the number of computers available. Plus they have wi-fi you can connect to with your library card. E-books, programs, lots of space, teen rooms, children’s sections, a courtyard, an attached cafe, on and on.

However, take a moment to look at the statistics for my tiny hometown Washta in northwest Iowa. The Washta Public Library has a total operating budget of $12,329 to serve the city and rural population of 429. Yet their circulation per capita is 18.6. They have 6 internet-capable computers in the tiny space they share in the elementary school building with the school library. Not a tremendous amount of space, but they are serving their community with basic circulation.

I did go through the database to compare the other library systems in Cherokee county, Iowa, just so I could feel smug. I’ve decided the people in my hometown are readers, but then, you knew that already.

Mt Juliet Harvey Freeman Public Library

Population served: 41,153
Annual visits: 118,281
Circulation: 333,194
Circulation per capita: 8.1 (Statewide estimate is 3.9)
Number of Internet-capable public computers: 14
Annual operating expenses: $318,171

Nashville Public Library

Population served: 572,475
Annual visits: 3,355,545
Circulation: 4,212,037
Circulation per capita: 7.4 (Statewide estimate is 3.9)
Number of Internet-capable public computers: 619
Annual operating expenses: $23,344,000

Washta Public Library

Population served: 428
Annual visits: 8,934
Circulation: 7,977
Circulation per capita: 18.6 (Statewide estimate is 9.3)
Number of Internet-capable public computers: 6
Annual operating expenses: $12,329

Wouldn’t you like to help Washta’s budget and send money and books? When I have visited and peeked at the school library (housed in the same room as the public library with a divider), I have been dismayed to find such an old collection of books. Washta is a community of readers. I hope they can find the funds to increase their collection. Maybe I will someday amass a fortune and can leave it to the library. I’d know it would be used.


  1. Aarons Mom says:

    I would love an update on how your sons are doing! My son leaves for Fort Benning this coming Wednesday! Wish him (and me) luck please!!