So the WRL Board of Trustees never responded at all to my latest request, which was, very simply, “Please explain why you have decided not to make fee-based cards available to people in neighboring counties.” NOT, please note, “Give us all library services for free!” or even “Give us fee-based cards!” Just, simply, “What lay behind the decision to make this particular use of public funds?”
So I sent a reminder:
I would very much appreciate it if you could answer the questions I posed in my email. I have copied it below for your convenience.
In addition, Mr. Moorman has been quoted as saying that fee-based cards are not possible “to preserve current funding.” You have been quoted as saying that fee-based cards have been rejected based on a “philosophical consideration.” Could you clarify which of these is the reason?
Susan Wise Bauer
And I got this back.
Although you may not be satisfied with our answers, I believe we have answered your questions as best as we can.
Thanks again for expressing your concerns.
Sent this back:
I think we both know that none of my questions have been answered.
I have no expectation that this email will get any response, but I feel I must try one more time to make an appeal to you, Mr. Moorman, and the board.
We are your neighbors.
We would appeal to you for the consideration due to neighbors–meaning that even when an unpleasant and difficult decision must be made, there is honesty and openness as to why that decision is necessary.
We are not asking for free privileges. We are just distraught (this is not too strong a word) that the institution so many of us love is being taken away from us without any explanation.
We are not being treated like neighbors–let alone like members of your community.
But we are members of your community. We have supported your library, worked at your stores, taught in your schools, eaten at your restaurants, supported the College and Colonial Williamsburg and the other wonderful institutions that make Williamsburg what it is. For decades, those institutions have included the Williamsburg Regional Library System.
Please tell us what we can do to help resolve the situation. Should we lobby our counties for a buy-in? Appeal to York County not to remove its funding? Offer to pay whatever card fee is necessary?
We have no idea. We have been shut out. The silence is both painful and humiliating. We are, as so many news reports have put it, apparently “outsiders” and “free riders” in your eyes, despite our lifelong support of your library.
Please reconsider the silence which has cloaked this issue from six thousand people who will be deeply affected by it.
Susan Wise Bauer
While I appreciate the sentiments some of you have sent this way, along the lines of, “They’re going to wish they hadn’t messed with you!”, the truth is that a public institution which decides to stonewall the public has most of the power on its side.
I sincerely hope that residents of Williamsburg, York County, and James City will hold this board to account.
In the meantime, the kids and I went over to the Yorktown Library, which offers free cards to all Virginia residents, and applied for library cards. We were welcomed warmly, told what a shame it was that WRL was kicking us out, given full access to all library services, and allowed to check out thirty items each.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly grateful. The Yorktown Library is more than twice as far away, but if I have to (which apparently I do), I can deal with that. My daughter, who cried when I told her we couldn’t go back to Her Library any more, found many of her old favorites and quite a few new ones and was comforted. I checked out three weeks’ worth of reading. My sons stocked up. I intend to join the Friends of the Library.
But in what universe does this make sense?