Life In A Fishbowl

It upsets me when the first reaction to troubled times is a wholesale butchering of an entire segment of modern life. Many of us would not be who we are if we hadn’t had the benefit of recreational programs and activities, special events and library resources when we were growing up. This again leads me to the necessity of constantly educating the public, in good times and bad, on the importance of these services.

Here was a woman ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater before she even realized what she was talking about. As I pointed out in my e-mail, for less than $75 per year, she and her fellow citizens had access to millions of dollars worth of technology, information, materials and other resources … free.

In fiscal year 2008, for every dollar spent on our library services, residents received $7 worth of services/materials. In FY08, the library checked out over $6.7 million worth of materials to local residents, based on actual value of the items, or approximately $574 per household. And that’s not even counting free access to the Internet on 21 public computers. And we’ve become busier since then.

Don’t Be Shy

But I digress. I started to talk about the fishbowl in which we public administrators must accept life. It goes with the territory. When one works at the state or federal level, one doesn’t often see the impact of one’s actions. But at the local level we know our customers personally. Our kids go to school together, we go to church together, and we see each other on the street and at ball games … and at the library. There are going to be questions, and no matter what department we work in, we will be seen as representatives of the administration.

I think every opportunity must be taken to educate the people we serve, whether it’s one at a time, in small groups or across whole segments via the media. We really need to be armed with information, statistics and facts about our services that people generally wouldn’t think about, so if someone offers the opportunity, we can be ready.

I’m considering little cue cards that each of my staff can carry, just in case. Or maybe a fact card that we can just hand people when they start asking questions. Hey, we could be on to something here.I haven’t received a response yet from our friend after I returned her e-mail. In the end I suggested that she consider volunteering a few hours each week at the library so she can obtain a first-hand, ground-level view of exactly what she receives for her tax dollars. I’ll be interested to see if she takes me up on it.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail dls@peachtree-city.org

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