We do not endorse candidates at the Southington Observer. We try to resist backing political parties or siding with Democrats or Republicans in debates. We try not to let our opinions cloud our investigations, and we check ourselves constantly to be sure that we are not acting as advocates or lobbyists for one side or the other. As long as politicians and public officials stay in their lane and act within the limited scope of authority granted to them in the town charter, we try to stay out of their way. Our job is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, so that democracy can thrive.

The Southington Public Library, 255 Main St, Southington, CT 06489.
(860) 628-0947

On the other hand, we have no problem endorsing the Southington Public Library and their efforts to update their broken down facility. It’s a no-brainer. Of course, most journalists are biased when it comes to libraries, so we’re not sure how surprising our endorsement actually is. At the Observer, we’ve consistently spoken out on behalf of the library because we certainly understand their challenges…and their importance to the community.

Throughout history, libraries and newspapers have a sort of unique partnership that you don’t often find between a government entity and the press. That’s because we are linked in a common goal: the protection and promotion of the first amendment. It’s built right into the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. Libraries are committed to being non-partisan and challenging censorship. “Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas,” they say. Newspapers should have the same lofty goal.

That’s why the Observer often find itself as a partner with this branch of government, and it’s also why we have no problems endorsing the library and their expansion efforts. Southington politicians have never really embraced the library—no matter what they say during election years and no matter what they will say as this project develops. The town has always treated the library as an afterthought.

We appreciated last week’s public presentation from architects and library staff, and we are excited that town officials seem to be finally open to this capital improvement.

The Southington Historical Society building was once the public library, as seen in this 1942 photograph by Charles Fenno Jacobs. (Library of Congress)

Even if a referendum passes in 2020, it’s about two decades too late. When the library opened on June 21, 1975, officials predicted that it was big enough to last until the year 2000 (based on growth models before the population explosion in the 1970s and 1980s). The current building has been too small for generations.

On the other hand, the delay might be the silver lining. Although we still think that this problem should have been solved a long time ago, the timing is perfect to take advantage of the “new library” needs in the 21st century. Whether town officials choose to add on to the existing library building or start fresh with a new one, neither model has much room for shelves of books, CDs, magazines, etc. They are not as integral as they were in the past as technology has transformed libraries from storage facilities into community centers, meeting rooms, information centers, and gathering places.

We hope that the public stays involved as this project comes to fruition. Speak out at public meetings and take time to learn about the project as it unfolds. Don’t leave it to the politicians. The library has created an informational page (www.southingtonlibrary.org/previewplans) and we’ll do our best to cover the issues as the conversation advances. Which option is better? That’s best left to the experts, town officials, and voters, but we are happy that the town has finally turned its attention to this project. We support it wholeheartedly.

To comment on this editorial or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at Editor@SouthingtonObserver.com.

 

For more information about the project: Library Expansion study meeting

More coverage about the project:

http://southingtonobserver.com/2020/01/29/a-new-look-for-the-library-architects-present-two-options-for-expansion/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/11/09/commentary-how-do-you-want-the-library-to-grow/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/12/27/architects-unveil-preliminary-plans-for-library-renovation/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/08/15/library-committee-recommends-architect/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/08/08/planning-stage-begins-for-library-expansion/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/05/06/library-officials-talk-about-expansion/

Observer editorials about the project:

http://southingtonobserver.com/2019/05/11/editorial-commitment-issues/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2018/07/21/editorial-good-luck-youll-need-it/

http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/03/09/editorial-why-not-put-off-today-what-we-can-do-tomorrow/