by Stan Cutler

Not For Sale: Top of the Hill property on the 8700 block of Germantown Avenue. It’s a single-floor building with 20-foot ceilings and more than 3,000square feet of hardwood floor. The interior has beautiful natural light from enormous mullioned windows. The place was built in 1909 and has been regularly upgraded and carefully maintained. What’s it worth?

The property comes with a few extras. A 1980s addition, paid for with donations from the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, features a spacious community room that is unused most of the time. We, the folks who live in Chestnut Hill, could use it as a forum. We could take and offer courses on fascinating subjects. It would be a non-political, non-commercial space where we could be at our best. How much is a place like that worth?

Smart phone technologies – portable internet in our pockets – have been infused into our society as profoundly as books. The free public library was once used like the internet is used in the 21st Century. The library didn’t do some things nearly as well as the internet. The internet retrieves stuff so much faster, forcing us to absorb information far more rapidly and in smaller chunks. Haste makes waste. The library’s operating system, its infrastructure, functions differently. In so doing it adds value to mindful experiences. What’s that kind of infrastructure worth?

You cannot put a price on the library because it is far more than real estate. Its enormous value is not mercenary. It cannot be privatized. Privatization is the scourge of public service and good government. Schools, hospitals, clinics – all offloaded to the faster-better-cheaper crowd. I abhor the privatization of schools. I worry about the libraries. The City Government, budget after budget, feels pressure to cut the funding. We understand. But…

We, the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, are advocates for the Free Library system founded by Benjamin Franklin. We will also be heard. We argue for more funding. We argue for improvements. We argue on behalf of our American heritage.

You can join us at chlibraryfriends.org

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