Library Hours And Library Levies

The Columbus Metropolitan Library is a wonderful library system that is consistently ranked as one of the best, if not the best, library systems in the nation.  It has a fabulous selection; it has an excellent website; it is very easy to reserve and then borrow books, movies, and CDs.  Kish and the boys and I have made extensive use of our library cards, and I think UJ does most of his blog postings from a library terminal.  The only problem is that, for a working person like me, it is now very difficult to get to the library to actually pick up the items, much less browse — which is a big part of the fun of a library.

Last year the Ohio state government cut its library funding.  The Columbus system responded by drastically reducing the hours branches are open to the public.  The New Albany branch, which is the one that I use, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  The branch is closed Sunday, which used to be a day I frequently visited the library.  On most work days I don’t get home until about 7 p.m., if not later, which makes it difficult to eat dinner and then go to the library before its 8 p.m. close.  That leaves Saturday, and if you have chores to do — like, say, shoveling out from under the latest snowstorm — it can be tough to budget Saturday daylight hours for a library visit, too.

I understand the need to cut back in the face of budget cuts, and as a balanced-budget advocate I can’t reasonably argue that the only governmental services that should be cut are those that I don’t use or need.  Nevertheless, I wonder whether the library couldn’t modify its hours to allow for opening every other Sunday, or for an afternoon opening and then later evening hours on, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Is the New Albany branch really used as heavily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays as it was during its former Saturday and Sunday hours?  This article indicates that Sunday was one of the busiest days (at the Reynoldsburg branch, at least).

The library system will have a renewal levy on the ballot come November.  I’ll be voting yes, and hoping that the library board of trustees recommends a millage level that, if approved, will allow branch hours to be increased.  Libraries are crucial parts of our communities and should be supported, even during tough economic times.  In New Albany, where the library branch is an anchor of the Market Square district, that is particularly true.

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Is There Anything a Person Won’t Do For Money ?

Yesterday I was killing some time before I went in to work at Windward Passage and ran across a show on MTV called Silent Library that tests the premise, is there a limit to what a person won’t do for cold hard cash ? I have to admit MTV has changed from the old days when it began back in 1981 with the specific intent of playing music videos 24/7 guided by on air hosts known as VJ’s.

I’m sure some people might find this type of show a waste of time I actually kind of found it sort of entertaining. The episode that I watched had six girlfriends who were playing the game and some were selected to perform insane tasks.

One task was similiar to the one in the trailer above where the girl had to find and eat thirteen cheetos that were hidden on a sweaty fat man’s body in a specified amount of time. The girl went about her business of finding the cheetos (one was in the man’s arm pit and one in his belly button) and tried to gulp them down while gagging as her girlfriends looked on and laughed.

I think this show probably proves that there isn’t anything that some people won’t do for the almighty dollar !

The 3 C Corridor, By Rail

Ohio recently was awarded $400 million in “stimulus” money to get “high-speed” trains running along the “3 C” corridor connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland.  According to this article, the plan would be to run four trains a day with six stops — two in the Cincinnati area, Dayton, Columbus, and two in the Cleveland area — starting in 2012.  The trains would reach a top speed of 79 miles per hour and would average 40 miles per hour.  An Amtrak study has estimated that 500,000 riders a year — primarily sports fans, business travelers, and college students — would use the rail service if it were available.

I think the train connection is intriguing, but I am a bit skeptical.  It’s weird to think that train travel, which had pretty much died by the time I was a kid in the ’60s, is the future of travel in Ohio.  I think a lot of people have romantic views of train travel, primarily from watching Alfred Hitchcock movies starring Cary Grant, but I doubt that the connection between Cincinnati and Cleveland will have much in the way of glamour.  The real issue is whether people will structure their travel to take one of the four trains, or whether they will hop in their cars at a time of their choosing and simply drive to their destination.  Right now, you can drive from Columbus to Cleveland in a bit over two hours, your average speed is significantly higher than 40 mph, and your car takes you from your doorstep directly to your destination.  I’m particularly doubtful of people taking the train from Columbus to Cincinnati because the route veers through Dayton, which is not on the direct route, making the trip a lot longer than it would be by car.

I’m not sure precisely how the $400 million will be spent, but a lot of infrastructure work needs to be done.  Columbus does not have a train station, although the convention center supposedly was designed to include an area that could be easily modified to serve as a train hub.  Ohio also is going to have to come up with at least $17 million a year to subsidize the route, and this is a time of great budget pressure.  If the state is serious about it, legislators are going to have to make some tough budget choices, like taking money from ongoing highway construction and widening projects and allocating it to the rail program instead.

Still, getting a train route started probably is not a bad idea.  A rail connection would provide an alternative to driving on a much-traveled route that could come in handy the next time gas prices spike to more than $4 per gallon. It also would be a way to connect Columbus to the Amtrak system, and could encourage more train travel generally.  If the system gets up and running, I think a lot of people will try it at least once, perhaps on a one-day trip to a sporting event in one of the “3 C” cities.  If it turns out to be a pleasant way to travel, it could become part of the routine.