Well it is my turn for this week and I have been simmering on this blog for a few days. I was listening to the radio as I drove into town and Bernard Hickey was on National Radio on the Jim Mora show. The conversation was about the $2 million work that needs to be done on the stands at Mount Smart Stadium. Bernard was rallying forth about how The Warriors should be paying for the work as they use the stadium. That the rate payers of Auckland should not be paying for the work. The essence of his argument was that there was really no financial return for the ratepayers by spending this money, and that all the successful things that occur at Mount Smart like Warriors games and The Big Day Out should be bringing a return to cover it. Now in particular, I do not care too much for Mount Smart, or for Rugby League. I have never been to a Big Day Out and likely never will. However, I have no issue with my rates paying for work on this stadium.
What Bernard Hickey seems to miss, is the public good aspect that things like stadiums provide. That many thousands of people do pay rates and use the stadium and can quite reasonably expect the stadium to be kept fit for purpose. They get enjoyment from this facility and that that is more than enough of a return for the expenditure by council.
But why am I blogging about this on here? Well because this is no different than for Libraries. Just because all the people of a city do not use a Library, does not mean their rates should not pay for one. The library user, who never goes to a park or swimming pool, should not expect that their rates not pay for these things. The benefits to the city, to the people who live and play in it. Those who choose to visit it and choose to spend their tourist dollar in it, are more than enough. Such items of public good should not be judged by profit margins or the “drain” they cause on the public purse. There is no drain from any of these things, but merely a return to the people of a city in a way other than direct financial return.
What we need to remember is that the people who pay their rates are the ones who ultimately decide what it is their money does and does not get spent on. They do this every three years by voting and by advocating at their local boards or to their councilors. These people are our friends, and our advocates. The challenge for Public Libraries is to continue to ensure that we meet the needs of these people, serve their needs and return to the community value in so many ways by making our cities culturally richer, more knowledgable and our communities more connected.