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Rachael Berkey Headshot

I Voted for Libraries

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It's hard to think about books today. I didn't think I'd ever write, let alone think, those words, but they're true. It's Election Day in the U.S. and it's pretty much the only thing on my mind. I even stepped out of the house without a book in my purse.

I know.

I don't understand this either.

But here's the thing: One of the places I learned to love reading and books -- a place that was formative to the person I have become -- was my public library. It's a place that is paid for with tax dollars. It's one of those line items on bigger budgets that looks like it's easy to cut.

In the years since I left Washington, I've talked to a lot of conservative friends -- note that I say conservative, not a political party because conservative people exist in both parties -- and I'm always amazed at the rhetoric I hear (another library word and concept, by the way).

"The government spends too much of my money."

"I don't need xxx so why should I pay for it?" (You can insert public health care, libraries, public transportation or any other social service into the xxx place there.)

I never disagree with these people because they are, for the most part, right. They don't need those things, and they would like to see their money go towards something personal.

You know what though? We're a society. It's not every man for himself or lady for herself. My friends may not need those public services. They probably have good jobs. If they're my personal friends, they probably have a book-buying habit that rivals my own and don't need a library because they can go out and buy a book when they want one. They can even keep it in their house and build their own personal library.

But I believe we live with a human/social contract. When we see someone hurt, we stop to ask if they need help. When we know someone is hungry, we share our food with them. Completely abandoning responsibilities to each other leads to a "society" that is much more "every man for himself" than I am comfortable being part of.

Part of my social contract includes a dedication to education. Just because I have enough books to qualify for an episode of Hoarders doesn't mean that others do. It's not just the books. Libraries also provide education programming, literacy programs and a gathering place that is safe.

So while I may have voted for a lot of issues this morning -- namely my own personal freedoms and the ability to choose what happens with my body -- I also voted for libraries.

I'd rather pay more in taxes and suffer in some way than see valuable social services go away.