opinion

EDITORIAL: A new library in Bloomington will help the community



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Within the next three years, the Monroe County Public Library plans to add a third branch to the southwest side of Bloomington. Architects have been hired, and the library is now asking for community feedback and holding public conversations about the addition.

The southwest area of Bloomington has a fast growing population, and already being underserved in library services, would benefit greatly from this new addition, which would be abundant in helpful resources for the entire community.

Libraries are perhaps the only places to offer completely free educational resources. Along with books, which you can access even from your phone with the help of apps like Overdrive, libraries also offer access to the internet and educational programs. 

The Monroe County Public Library currently has programs such as computer programming for children and teens, homework help, workshops for the LGBT community, conversation groups for those learning English as a new language and more. A new branch would make these programs even more far reaching in the community for people of all socioeconomic statuses.

Not only do libraries offer spectacular resources, they are also an essential part of creating safe communities for underserved or homeless people in the area. Perhaps the most important part of a library is that there is no underlying assumption of spending money once you walk in. Bloomington is filled with shops and restaurants, which is necessary for a busy college city, but the library is one of the only public spaces that allows its patrons to simply exist without paying. Therefore, for underserved communities, a new library would be important for otherwise unavailable educational opportunities or simply a safe, warm place to go inside.

Of course, the library is not the only resource for Bloomington’s homeless population. Wheeler Mission, a homeless shelter in the southwest area, does lots of work including meals, shelter, addiction recovery programs and more. 

There is also A Friend’s Place (Shalom Community Center), a nonreligious overnight shelter that also specializes in crisis casework and hunger relief. The Middle Way House is an emergency shelter for those fleeing domestic violence or human trafficking. These are only a few of the many other resources in Bloomington for homeless and underserved communities.

A library in the same area would benefit these places as well, acting as a separate but complementary resource. Also, while some homeless shelters like Wheeler Mission are Christian groups centered in Christian programming, public libraries are completely secular. While Wheeler Mission does not discriminate on behalf of religion, it is helpful to have secular resources for those that want them.

Another benefit of this new branch is that, according to the Monroe Public Library, it will not cost any taxpayer dollars, which is always a concern for some. They will most likely take out a bond to pay for the building’s construction and operating costs will be covered by money saved by the library over the past few years.

In short, a new library would be beneficial in many different ways, whether it be increasing access to education and literacy or providing a new opportunity for free public space. Hopefully the community will respond positively and the Monroe County Public Library will continue taking steps toward making this new branch a reality.

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