The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Review of: Stoughton, Wisconsin, Public Library

Review of: Stoughton, Wisconsin, Public Library
From: Select Guide to Libraries of the St. Croix Valley
For: Hometown Gazette
By: Tim Krenz
Date: May 7, 2015

Of this series of Select Guide to Libraries of the St. Croix Valley, a look at a library outside the region may reveal lessons in perspective for where libraries in the Valley may have to lead in the future, when changes in demography, economics, media, and culture force a new reality.

Almost 5 hours from the St. Croix River, the Wisconsin city of Stoughton sits quiet on a flat land, about a dozen miles from the state capital of Madison. The lives and work of Stoughton reflect that of the Valley—small, integrated communities of long-term, heritage-immigrant families and many newer middle to upper-middle class families with close connections oriented to a larger political-economic center of urban power, i.e. Madison for Stoughton, and the Twin Cities, Minnesota for the St. Croix Valley.

For the Valley, the changes in the mix of new and old will only continue as the socio-economic push moves along transportation corridors that either expand or open anew. To the point at issue: How does a library change with the time? And, how can a library remain relevant to connect past and future by present planning and activity? The Stoughton Public Library might instruct some insights to answer these questions.

The Stoughton Public Library, as an endowment of industrial philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, opened the doors of its building on March 6, 1908. It sits on the top of the hill and fronting the main street, a road that runs directly to Madison. Like other main streets in Wisconsin's larger cities, it shows a prosperous past fronting the street, but inside many vacant stores the city moves in transition to newer norms.

Before the Carnegie gift to build a new, cut stone temple of knowledge over a century ago, the Stoughton library started like many others, located in the basement of the city hall with brief hours and fewer than wanted materials. But by 1910, two years after opening, the library in the new building boasted 3500 items and a circulation of 17,000 materials (Note: From an anonymous history of the library provided by director, Richard MacDonald). At the end of 2014, it has almost 65,000 print books, and over 150,00 forms of other loan-able material in other formats (including e-books).

Among the normal library collections, Stoughton's carries a well-used and extensive Norwegian language-and-heritage trove, for scholars and other researchers It continues to expand the materials from select donations, thus preserving the strong cultural identity of the community and its historical settler roots. Early in its history, the library led the community in collecting and shipping donated materials to the US armed forces servicemen in 1917, during the First World War.

In November 1988, a city referendum approved borrowing $1 million to expand in the present location and to incorporate the Carnegie building in the design. A community fund raising drive raised an additional $450,000. The architectural design, done by Ross Porter, elegantly combined the best of the new forms and connected it to the old substance of the Carnegie building. Inside the main entry on the east side-cross street, the backside exterior of the old building forms one wall of the new, two-level wide-open main rooms holding collections and stacks. And up that exterior-now-interior wall, a pillar crawls upward, reaching high above the second level, and one almost loses its height in the bright light of the long L-shaped sky-light around the roof of the Carnegie building that connects it to the modern addition. The main split-level of the Carnegie wing now houses periodicals, large polished wood tables and den chairs for quiet study, all surrounded by the interior's off-white walls, large windows and burnished wood trim. Old and new connected, the feel of past and present now has to move to the future, as another remodeling, of the newer addition, takes place soon. For this upcoming renovation, as of mid-March 2015, the library stood only $15,000 short of its target fund raising goal of $600,000. Times change, and so must things, or people get forgotten.

Perhaps a key to understanding then changes for the future of libraries, one must look at the social institutions and the cultural memory undergoing a revolution of sorts in the way a progressing technology affects them. Marilyn Gunrud, the library's Technical Services Supervisor, made a profound observation, and one quite instructive. She said, once an individual or society invests in a certain technology, that investment will determine and largely dictate their library requirements. Patrons, the ultimate users of libraries and why libraries exist, may not have the money to continually upgrade their technology, and therefore the library must accommodate to those needs of a vested patron.

In conclusion, even with technology, people ultimately need updated media, and places to find it. If for no other reason, then they need it to expand and grow the first and best hope for the future of all humankind, the human imagination, unleashed and unfettered. No place can offer more, digestible food for that imagination than a public library—anywhere near you.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Governments and Property: Critique of Politics Part II

How do governments maintain themselves as authorities ruling over the peoples under its laws? Simply. Governments function at all times as organized monopolies of legitimacy and ultimate controller of all property within reach. Governments keep their position to govern by exercising force over citizens when all else fails. Ideally, governments should serve common aims under the unqualified consent of all those subject to it. Yet, some favor and some oppose government policy, and the disagreement has created political divisions, very strong and vocal differences, indeed. The facts?

Controlling all forms of property, governments claim the money it needs for purposes defined by themselves, without higher appeal. Governments rule for the reasons they create, such as to “form of more perfect Union” for “general welfare” or “common defense.” (Stated in the US Constitution). As self-maintaining powers, governments exercise two primary functions to ensure their power, thus enabling their mission statements.

First a ruling power collects money from people. Second, it pays people. Words in politics only serve to reinforce a belief that governments have powers to fix any problem by speaking of it. If a government policy action does not involve collecting and paying money, in other words transferring property, then it really has taken little effort to change much of anything.

Most often, government policy helps the fewer at the expense of the greater. Groups not favored by the ruling power usually pay the greater costs, in all ways. In short, someone has to pay, and someone has to collect, for government to have impact. Rhetorical politics solve nothing. On the other hand, governments create useful institutions, otherwise vast numbers of people would starve, remain ignorant, or suffer violence and lawlessness without protection.

Governments cannot exist without revenues. They cannot survive unless people support them, and people only a support government for two reasons: They benefit from their government or they fear it. Whether one calls the transactions “tax and spend,” a transfer of wealth, or a theft and a bribe, it does not matter; it all amounts to the same, the collection and giving of property from one to another. Someone pays; someone gets paid. Understanding this, perhaps a reasoned discussion of politics in the United States will allow citizens to evaluate what government really costs, even morally; and whether we need more or less government, or what type of government, in the 21st Century.