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Livatino: No community under 35,000 has no library


I attended the exchange meeting of the Recreation Centers of Sun City April 8. It was an extraordinary experience of democracy in action. I don’t know who first established these exchange meetings, but yesterday the meeting proved to be of inestimable value.

In the course of little more than a week’s time, Friends of the Sun City Libraries President Sue Blechl and her fellow members gathered nearly 4,000 signatures protesting the board’s proposed closing of the Sun City libraries. Her campaign brought approximately 1,500 people to the Sundial Rec Center at 9 a.m. on April 8 to confront the board’s proposed action. So many were present that all three rooms of the auditorium had to be opened, and every chair in the place was deployed, and, when there weren’t enough chairs, people stood along the walls. More than three dozen speakers articulated exactly why this was perhaps the most foolish notion ever to be entertained by the Board.

I hope that meeting will result in a Friends of the Sun City Libraries running for a seat on the board every time a seat opens up from now on. We must never come this close to such a monstrous decision again. Now, here are a few facts to demonstrate why such a consideration was so monstrous:

  • Not a single community with a population of 35,000 or more in the entire state of Arizona is without a public library.
  • Not a single community with a population of 35,000 or more in my home state of Illinois is without a public library.
  • In fact, I could find not a single community of 35,000 or greater in the entire United States without a public library.

For kickers, here’s a personal note. For nearly 18 years, I owned a home on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan. It was incorporated into Boyne City. The population of Boyne City, Mich., is 3,850. That means it is one-tenth the size of Sun City — and they have a public library twice the size of the Bell Library. The next community over from Boyne City is the Village of Walloon Lake. It has a population of 308, exactly 1/100th the size of Sun City — and it too has a public library! You can check these facts in an instant on the internet.

Now here’s one last fact I gleaned from two paragraphs of facts about the usage of our libraries that appeared in April 3 edition of the Sun City Independent. Last year, the Bell and Fairway branches together had 146,060 visitors and checked out a combined 363,984 books. Do these figures suggest that Sun City doesn’t need its libraries?

What all this means is I want to suggest to the board and to General Manager (Matthew) D’ Luzansky that if they were to succeed in closing our libraries, they would make Sun City the unlettered, unread, unreading, redneck capital of the United States without a single rival on the horizon. And they would be doing that at the very same time that they continue to find the funds to operate eight public golf courses, nine quite large recreation centers, two bowling centers, two restaurants, and a dog park.

So why, I want to know, did the board and General Manager D’ Luzansky even consider closing our tiny libraries that experience massive use while they keep open these vastly larger and much more expensive facilities? What could possibly have possessed this board to consider this outrageous choice? I can’t begin to fathom the thinking here.

Now, I have five more questions for the Board and General Manager D’ Luzansky:

1) Exactly when did someone first suggest the closing of the libraries?

2) Who first uttered this suggestion?

3) Exactly why did this suggestion come up, and why was it taken into consideration?

4) Why were these thoughts not communicated to the residents of Sun City as soon as possible?

5) Exactly how much are we paying Mr. D’ Luzansky per year to consider closing our libraries?