Through its action, the majority has effectively adopted the position that
libraries are not to be valued and recognized for the critical and correlative nexus they have
to the education process. Virtually every school child at some point in their state-mandated
school attendance is required as part of his or her educational experience to utilize the varied
resources that only a library can provide. Such materials necessarily include encyclopedias;
atlases; CD's; DVD's; as well as the voluminous published works of fiction and non-fiction.
While some people prefer to downplay the significance of actual books given the presence
of the internet, I respond by stating that for many people in the rural areas of this state the
libraries are often the only source of computer access for those people. In addition, I
observe that the internet simply cannot replace the many benefits that a public library
provides to its patrons both in terms of physical access to documents and also in terms of
broadening an individual's perception and understanding of his or her place in the world by
means of exposure to information and events. There is simply no end to the benefits that a
public library offers to the citizens of this state, initially extended at the pre-school level,
continuing through the school years, and enduring throughout adulthood. Without question,
the public library enhances every community in which it is situated through services that are
both cultural and educational in nature.
Lest the origins of the extensive public library system that currently exists throughout this country and the importance of permanently securing funding for such invaluable institutions be forgotten, we should recall the life of steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. When he arrived in this country in 1848 as a poor immigrant, he was denied access to the so-called public library because he did not have the funds to pay the annual fee required to use the library. Recognizing the injustice of the situation, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1853, arguing that poor young people should be given free access to libraries so that they could improve themselves. The director of Andrew Carnegie's local library read the letter, and it persuaded him to change the rule. After becoming one of the richest men in the world, Andrew Carnegie spent the rest of his life giving his fortune away to charity. Among his many charitable acts was the construction of almost 3,000 libraries across the country. For every library he funded, he required that the town set aside a certain amount of tax funds to keep it running in perpetuity. He also required that many libraries inscribe phrases like Free Library or Free to the People over the entrance, so that the libraries would always remain free.
While perhaps overlooked by the majority, Carl Sagan aptly articulated the value of the public library to society:
The library connects us with the insights and knowledge,
painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever
were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and
from all of our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to
inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective
knowledge of the human species. . . . I think the health of our
civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings
of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by
how well we support our libraries.
Carl Edward Sagan, Cosmos, 282 (1980). Because the majority has proceeded down a path that threatens the funding structure for public libraries and clearly devalues such vital institutions, I must respectfully dissent.
I am authorized to state that Justice Starcher joins in this separate opinion.