It should be relatively easy to get voters in the Parkland School District to approve a new tax to fund a new library.
The levy would hit the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 with an extra $19 a year, which is peanuts in most of the affluent neighborhoods of South Whitehall, North Whitehall and Upper Macungie townships.
The personal income per student in the Parkland district is $184,828, according to the state Education Department. That is not quite as high as the ratio in the Salisbury, Southern Lehigh or Saucon Valley school districts, but it is pretty good compared to Allentown, where it's $67,734.
(Allentown is not as deprived as the intellectual wastelands of a few other school districts — such as Reading, with a personal income ratio of $46,764, or York, with $46,638 — but it's pretty pathetic.)
Anyway, it's now up to Parkland's voters to approve the tax hike, it was reported in The Morning Call on Thursday, because a referendum for the November election was approved 7-1 Tuesday evening by the Parkland School Board.
If voters go along, a new library, five times as big as the current Parkland Community Library next to the South Whitehall Municipal Building, will be built on Grange Road in Upper Macungie.
Some may look at this as a case of affluent communities being able to build nice libraries because they are, well, affluent. I prefer to look at it from an opposite angle. I like to think affluent communities are affluent in the first place because they are full of people who value things like libraries.
On past occasions, I have made a lot of noise about communities that value things other than intellectual advancement.
Northampton, for example, rejected increased funding for its cramped library around the same time financing was approved for $2.7 million in fabulous improvements to a school football stadium. At Allentown in past years, school officials denied additional funds for any new library books at the same time they had 18 football coaches on the payroll.
As those things were happening, the Northampton and Allentown school districts were among the poorest performing in Pennsylvania, based on academic tests.
I must note that despite all that, Allentown has an excellent library. In Northampton, let's just say the valiant librarians do the best they can with what they have.
Thursday's story said voters in the Parkland district will decide whether to bump up the current special library tax to .2978 mills, meaning about $29 a year on a home assessed at $100,000, compared to the current tax of about $10. Once the new facility is paid off, the special library tax will automatically go back to .1895 mills, knocking off about half the increase.
If the increase is approved, as I boldly predict it will be, construction on the library could begin next March — a cause for celebration among those who feel prosperity and enlightenment depend more on nurturing the ability to read than on nurturing football.
After I saw Thursday's story, I stopped at the Parkland library, which is pleasant, but small. Youngsters were plugging away at a bank of computers while others were checking out regular books.
"I'm very happy that the school district passed that resolution for us," said Debbie Jack, the library director. "It's something that's overdue for the community."
If voters approve the funding, she said, she and her staff will move to the big new library in Upper Macungie, although the existing building will remain as a branch with reduced hours of operation.
I suppose it is time to confess that I have personal reasons for my radical advocacy for the cause of libraries and librarians.
During the Great Depression, my late mother was studying to become a librarian at what then was called Geneseo State Teachers College south of Rochester. In the spring of her sophomore year, some sort of mysterious ailment forced her to leave. The disappointment was devastating.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and she was compensated by the arrival of a bundle of joy the following October, after an elopement and nuptial bliss in Elkton, Md.
My earliest memories are of my mother talking about her lost aspirations, and that continued throughout my youth. She instilled in me a fanaticism about libraries.
Although I was very rowdy as a youth, I sometimes hitch-hiked to downtown Buffalo just to visit the Grosvenor Library, the most marvelous library I have ever seen.
It was all stone, brick and iron, with an Italian renaissance interior, tinted cathedral glass and a winding stairway leading up to a study room in a tower. There was more wonderful reading material than an army could devour in a lifetime.
Neither my parents nor my friends really believed I went to Buffalo to visit a library, but I did. When the Grosvenor closed years after I left the area, and was torn down years after that, I felt I had lost a dear friend.
So when people disdain libraries, or subordinate them to high school football stadiums or other frills, I think they are no better than any of the brainless, reprobate book-burners of history.
And when I see people moving to build a big library, as I guarantee will happen in the Parkland School District, I celebrate.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.