As I near the end of my year in Northern Ireland, where the people can only hope that leaders agree to let the government meet, I realize how valuable referendums are to the people of Maine. In June, Scarborough’s citizens will be able to decide whether or not to support the Scarborough Public Library’s proposed expansion. There has been a good deal in the library funding discussion about our struggling taxpayers. As a recent college graduate and continuing student, I am one myself – I spent two-thirds of my savings paying taxes in April. Our citizens are rightfully concerned about overspending – but spending on the library is a long-overdue investment in our citizens of all ages.

I remember visiting the library every afternoon during middle school, as there were three hours between the school bell and when my mother could pick me up after work. I used the Internet (then relatively novel), the reference books, and the children’s area to converse with friends. But most importantly, I found mentors among the library staff. One children’s librarian tolerated and entertained my curiosity, and continues to do so. When I left for Northern Ireland to study peace, she sent me off with a biography of Mohandas Gandhi. Her 12 years of mentorship have been invaluable to me, just as the library is an invaluable part of our community.

We know that Scarborough is one of the fastest-growing towns in the state. The town has a responsibility to meet the needs of that growth. Young people should be able to congregate constructively – with enough space to do so – after school. Students should be able to conduct their research here, not have to head to Portland because we lack the resources. Adults should be able to read or hold meetings away from the voices and shuffling of feet at the reception desk.

These needs will require the investment in space, resources, and even, as one resident at the public hearing last week argued, wages for more employees. But the returns – more jobs, expanded educational opportunities, and improved leisure – will benefit this town’s economy and culture for many years.

I have met a number of people who have benefited from our connection to the library since I moved to Scarborough. Our support for the “Building Connections” campaign will move Scarborough forward. Even though absentee, I’m voting yes on the referendum on June 13.

Benjamin Cote

Northern Ireland

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