• Mcalester News-Capital Editorial Board: OPINION: OUR VIEW: Build America's Libraries Act could help McAlester

• Mcalester News-Capital Editorial Board, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
·3 min read

Mar. 17—In 1731, Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia, America's first successful lending library. Franklin and the other library shareholders pooled their resources to purchase a collection of books that none of them could have afforded individually.

Franklin also designed the seal and wrote the motto for the Library Company: "Communiter bona profundere deum est." — "To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine." When you think about it, it is hard to come up with a better example of an institution that benefits the common good more than the public library. It is open to anyone and free to everyone.

McAlester's had a public library since before statehood. Many of us can still remember time spent at the beautiful Carnegie Library on Grand Avenue (Carl Albert Parkway). Our current library building opened in 1970 and was recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its innovative design. Half a century later, our dedicated library staff continues to provide a warm and welcoming environment to every patron.

But over the years, the shortcomings of our current facility have become more obvious. Limited space forces removal of thousands of books and other material from our shelves every year in order to make room for new content. The internet has led to many new library services for which the building was never designed. These services are essential to many in our community who would otherwise lack any access. The building is showing its age.

More than 10 years ago, civic-minded residents of our community began efforts to update our library to match our 21st century needs. Multiple attempts have been made, but none have ultimately succeeded. In 2019 another effort got underway and was achieving some initial success until the pandemic put everything on hold. The latest proposal is to repair, remodel, update and expand the current building. Design concepts have been developed and significant fundraising commitments have been secured. But there is still some distance to go and you can help. Here's how.

The "Build America's Libraries Act" has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. If enacted, this bill would provide $5 billion for repair and construction of modern library facilities across the nation. It has been many years since any federal dollars were available for this purpose. We believe our McAlester library project is a perfect fit for the needs this bill is designed to address.

We encourage everyone who would like to see our McAlester Public Library updated, so that our kids and grandkids have free access to the 21st century resources they need, to please contact our Oklahoma senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, and ask them to support this legislation. Even in these partisan times, surely supporting our public libraries with public funds is a non-partisan issue we can all embrace.

The nation's librarians, through the American Library Association, strongly support the effort. This is one time when librarians are not asking you to keep quiet, but to let your voices be heard loud and strong!

Link to email Senator Inhofe: https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/contact

Link to email Senator Lankford: https://www.lankford.senate.gov/contact/email

McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board