As a property-owning, tax-paying citizen of Bayfield who also works at the library, I’m offering information and personal experience for consideration by my fellow citizens (“Bayfield library might ask taxpayers again for a property tax increase,” June 12).
I don’t speak for the library, but as a private citizen sharing my personal knowledge and opinions.
Last Saturday, at the library, I offered an early literacy storytime designed using research-based early literacy practices, not only providing children with play-based learning experiences, but also modeling these practices for parents/caregivers to use. I also provided a STEM workshop for K-5th graders. We explored drag and resistance through hands-on activities and group discussion. The K-5 programming is also informed by the latest research/best practices for youth development. All of our children’s programming is educational.
I invest effort in program design research because I believe families of rural communities like ours deserve equitable access to high-quality, research-based, professionally delivered out-of-classroom learning opportunities. I’m not a babysitter. I’m a professional community educator, a graduate of Tulane University, an Army veteran and a 4.0 student earning my master’s of arts in library science.
Pine River Library offers 20-30 programs every month for children 0-11 years old for 25-50 cents per attendee because, in addition to taking my call to serve my community very seriously, I also take my fiduciary responsibility to my fellow taxpayers very seriously. There’s nothing left to cut from children’s programming except staff time – without cutting the programs entirely. I work hard to source supplies as affordably as I can and pursue grant funding wherever possible.
Balancing excellence in professional program design with a tight budget is a challenge I do my best to rise to as creatively as possible. Even if we charged at cost for our children’s programs, it wouldn’t make up the budget shortfall.
Research by the Afterschool Alliance demonstrates that by the time children reach 6th grade, there’s a 6,000-hour learning gap between children from more affluent families and children from less affluent families. Children from more affluent families can afford to attend summer camps, take music lessons, work with tutors, etc., spending 6,000 more hours learning than their less affluent peers. That deficit shows up as gaps in test scores, high school graduation rates, college acceptance/completion rates, and job opportunities/earnings rates. The deficits are statistically greater in rural areas than urban ones because of the lower wages and more limited number of out-of-classroom learning opportunities available in rural communities.
PRL is the only organization in Bayfield that is actively engaged in closing that 6,000 hour gap for Bayfield’s children by offering professional out-of-classroom learning opportunities that are financially accessible for all of our community’s children. If we start charging what private entities do for out-of-classroom learning, it’s our community’s children and our community’s future that would pay the price.
I work very hard doing what is a professional 40-hour-a-week job in only 25 hours because that’s what fits the budget for my position.
I earn $15.50 an hour. My husband works full time. I also have another 16-hour-a-week job. That’s what it takes for us to pay our bills responsibly, raise our children and afford graduate tuition without incurring debt.
PRL’s budget situation affects me both professionally and personally. Obviously, I feel strongly about this.
I’m sad that when I finish my master’s, the projected budget doesn’t include a full time job for me at PRL that would pay me a wage commensurate with my education and experience. I won’t be able to afford to live here or to serve this community as a professional librarian.
I’m also saddened by my community members’ harsh words towards the staff of PRL. The staff are real people with families and bills to pay just like everyone else in Bayfield. The vast majority live, own property and pay taxes right here in Bayfield. We are your neighbors. Please don’t forget that in addition to our community’s future, people’s individual livelihoods are also on the line.
If anyone has questions about PRL’s children’s services, please come by. I’m happy to share about what we do, why we do it, what we spend, how we design programming, etc. I also encourage you to ask other staff members about their programs and services.
Children’s services is just one piece of what Bayfield’s public library does. Every department is informed by librarianship’s best practices and staffed by people committed to serving their community to the best of their abilities. You’d be surprised at what’s available at our little local library.
We didn’t win Best Small Library in America for nothing!
Kate Brunner is the children’s services manager at Pine River Library. She lives in Bayfield.