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One’s own library card is a must

Getting your first library card is a rite of passage many of us fondly recall. But what if you live in a town that has no library?

That’s the position residents of Sharon are in. For many years, Sharon has paid the town of Peterborough for all of the library cards Sharon residents hold — for 2013 the cost came to $6,868 — so that its residents can enjoy all the privileges of library cardholders. In an effort to save money, however, the Sharon Select Board has been looking at some other options, a way to pay only for cards that are currently in use.

In a letter to Peterborough dated Dec. 5, the Sharon Select Board advised that the town will be doing things differently from here on out. Sharon residents, under the plan outlined in the letter, would pay the fee charged to nonresidents for a card at a library of their choice, and then would have the opportunity to apply for reimbursement from the town of Sharon. Right now, the plan calls for reimbursing the cost of one card per family.

And that may be a disappointment to some of the kids living in Sharon. It was for Kate Craig, 7, of Sharon who recently went to the Peterborough Town Library to obtain a card for the first time, and was told she couldn’t have one.

It may have been done in error, since as Chair of the Peterborough library’s Board of Trustees Marcia Patten said, Sharon residents are still covered by the 2013 agreement with Peterborough. But if that’s what Sharon residents can expect in the future from the plan put forward by their Select Board in which one card per household is covered by the town, we think it’s a shame.

We understand the challenges of budget constraints, and wanting to keep expenses down for taxpayers. But a kid not being able to have his or her own library card, unless mom and dad decide they can afford to pay for it, somehow seems wrong.

There is a long history of free public libraries in the U.S., and there’s a reason for that. Access to information has become something of a fundamental right in this country. It is ironic that, as Peterborough’s 1833 Society contends on its website, the free public library movement got its start right here in Our Town in 1833. Peterborough is the oldest tax revenue-supported library in the nation.

And today, while library cards and services are still free for its residents, many of whom are paying through local taxation, Peterborough charges nonresidents $68 per adult or family per year for library cards. Interestingly, Jaffrey charges nonresidents just $30 and Keene charges $50.

Ideally, every town would have its own library. But Sharon, as with other areas of municipal life, has had to rely on the services of Peterborough. We hope there’s a way it can continue to do so affordably, while also giving every child a chance to apply for his or her own library card.

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