Letter to the editor: New Shrewsbury library: expensive and outdated


To the Editor:

Opinion-icon-for-website[1]In 2011, Shrewsbury's voters rejected a proposal to build an $18.5 million library.? On November 5th, voters will consider a new library proposal.? It's supposedly 10 percent ?smaller than the previous proposal, but it will cost 29 or 43 percent more (depending on which option is ultimately presented to the voters).? Construction costs have increased 2.2 percent per year.

The alternative to building a new library is to repair the old library.? According to the project's proponents, the cost of repairs – with no major changes to the library – has doubled in just two years:? from $6.4 million to $12.8 million.

These huge and rapid increases in costs are incredible.? The proponents apparently believe that voters who rejected an $18.5 million library will spend vastly more in order to buy even less.? Furthermore, a bigger building will have higher operating costs for heating, cooling etc.? How will these additional costs be paid when the town is scrimping to retain teachers?

A more fundamental problem is that the building will be outdated as soon as its doors open.? In order to get a state construction grant, the library must be designed according to state guidelines, which were developed in the 1990s – before the digital revolution that's allowed commuters to read their morning newspaper on their cell phones. Grade school students can download their homework onto their iPads.? People can now download millions of free books from the Internet, or they can buy millions of inexpensive books from Amazon or Apple.? People do most of their research on the Internet.? Today 23 percent of all books sold are digital; by 2016, that number is expected to reach 40-50 percent. Traditional libraries are threatened with obsolescence.

Meanwhile, the state's guidelines mandate large, expensive warehouses for paper books, whereas electronic books occupy no shelf space.? In San Antonio, Texas, a public library that contains no books opened last week.? Libraries without books have arrived.

The proposed library is just too big and too expensive.? It's designed to meet the needs of the last century.? Voters should reject it.

Brian Austin

Committee for a Smaller Library, CSL