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Two Things

March 15, 2004

Two things:

First, I’d like to make something very, very clear. Recently, when I’ve written about state library funding problems, I really, really meant “State.” We’re fine here at Salida Regional Library. Library books, hours, staff, etc., are safe.

One concern I heard had a funny twist. A friend said half-jokingly — and I mean only half — “Please don’t ask for a tax increase,” since he wouldn’t support it.

The best response I could muster was, “Um …”

He had inferred from my talk of library funding that I was trying to pave the way for a tax increase for the library. If you’re always cynical, eventually you’ll be right. This time, he was wrong.

The library doesn’t even collect the full property tax levy that was approved by voters in 1995. It returns about 3/4 of a mill each year in property tax credits — about $90,000 — to keep in line with various tax limits. The state currently considers us free of those limits, but we don’t, so we don’t take it.

I haven’t been trying to get my foot in the door to trick you into paying more taxes. State funding for library programs is almost completely gone; I happen to think it would be public money well spent. That’s all.

We’ll notice the difference when it’s gone; you may not. This opens the door for the question “Was it important, then?” If library users won’t see a difference, why does it matter?

Ask me, if you’re interested. If I try to explain here, you’ll turn to Dave Barry.

Second, I have some further thoughts on the psychology of doors, which we discussed in October 2002.

We looked at human-door interactions such as these, which I witnessed within one hour recently at the Cornucopia Cafe:

A group burst through the front door on a cold morning and proceeded to a table leaving the door wide open. OK, possible miscommunication.

Shortly, another customer went outside to buy a newspaper from the vending machine leaving the door open, as if she might get locked out. Or, as if she could retrieve a paper in seconds. Possible miscalculation.

Then, a potential customer held the door open while squinting at the menu boards. After a while, he closed the door just enough to peek through the door window at the menu while continuing to let cold air swirl around the restaurant. Explanation unknown.

There’s an interesting postal variation of the vending machine tic in which a carrier sweeps in, leaves the door swung wide, drops the mail, and closes the door on the way out.

It must be like the Five-Second Rule, where food is considered clean if you pick it off the floor within five seconds. For open doors, you have thirty seconds.

I’ve decided to adjust my attitude about such door behavior. I now consider doors open by default. If I want one shut, I shut it myself. This is like changing the rule about rewinding videos from “rewind before return” to “rewind before you play.”

Soon enough, we won’t have to rewind anyway, since everything will be on DVD. Perhaps one day we’ll avoid doors altogether. Already, many doors open and close for you. You don’t have to give a thought to the transition.

We actually strive for this in library service. You want something? You ask. That’s all. We’ll worry about opening and closing the doors to get it.


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