Wise tells his own side on library issue

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2002

By Russ Wise, District Eight, St. John Parish School Board, LaPlace

DEAR EDITOR: Earlier this week in this space, Councilman Allen St. Pierre took offense at my effort to keep a library open. His letter asked a series of rhetorical questions, like why I waited four years to raise the issue, and why a branch library should be left open in the current main library’s building when the new main library opens on Highway 51.

I have a great deal of respect for St. Pierre and all members of the parish council. I said so, as I presented my resolution to the school board. Last week, I also said then, and I say now, that I apologize for not raising the issue earlier. The reason? I simply had not realized the effect of closing the Airline Highway location would have on some of its biggest customers until it had been pointed out to me by someone else.

Hundreds of children who attend both public and private schools rely upon the parish library for access to encyclopedias, atlases, and other reference materials they need. The library’s computer stations are always full. Often, there’s a waiting list. On any given evening or Saturday, you’ll find the library full of kids of all ages, working on projects or researching term papers. Many of them have either walked or ridden their bicycles – something none of them will be able to do once that library closes.

The resolution simply asks the Library Board and the parish council to consider keeping a portion of the current main library open as a branch library for children.

As I drafted the resolution, I tried to take special care not to give anyone the impression that I was being critical of either the council or the library board. They have done an excellent job in preparing for, designing and funding the new library.

Mr. St. Pierre’s letter indicates he’s working on trying to open a branch library in Garyville. Good for him. I’ll be happy to give him whatever help I can. My support for libraries, both public libraries and school libraries, is no secret.

He also seems to feel that the resolution intrudes into an area that should be off limits for the school board to consider anyway. I have tried my darndest, in writing the resolution and in all my comments about it, to make it clear that the resolution was nothing more than what it said it was – a respectful request for the council to consider the possibility of keeping a small library open there – even only for after school or Saturday use. I’m not mad at anyone, and I don’t want to get into any turf battles. We all serve the same people.