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A Lot for a Little

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 13:14

On Saturday, voters in the East Hampton, Wainscott, and Springs School Districts will have a chance to support an institution that is a cultural and educational hub for the community. The East Hampton Library, on Main Street overlooking the Village Green, is asking residents to approve a modest tax increase to help pay for its growing services.

A key word is “help.” By a conservative estimate about a third of the library’s income is expected to come from sources other than taxes next year. Tops among them is its Authors Night fund-raiser, followed by private donations. Sales of used books, fines, and even a Starbucks coffee machine at the circulation desk provide the rest. In some years, donations account for half of total income, or even more, depending on just how generous benefactors are feeling.

Occasional visitors to the library might wonder what taxpayers get for their money. The short answer is a lot. In addition to circulating books, DVDs, and music recordings, cardholders can stream free movies and music, read ebooks and magazines, and when on library premises have access to scientific journals and subscription-only genealogy websites. Classes and activities for adults and children take place seven days a week, and lectures and important public forums are offered, such as an Oct. 16 town candidates debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons.

Computers and related hardware are basic. There is a young- adult room, where teenagers can study or hang out away from the sidelong glances of adults. The reference desk staff can answer just about any question, or provide resources when they can’t. The library’s extraordinary Long Island Collection chronicles life in the region from the 17th century onward, and many rare and original sources are now available online through searchable text. The library also has been a leader in newspaper digitization, making The East Hampton Star from its founding in 1885 nearly to the present day available to anyone with a computer at no cost.

All this comes from a tiny fraction of overall property taxes — and the proposed increase is so small it would add up to less than the cost of a single deli sandwich per household. A property assessed at near the town average would pay an additional $6 next year. All of this should be understood for the great deal it is. A yes vote at the library on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is strongly suggested.