Column: There’s more than one way to fund the libraries

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” ­– Thomas Jefferson

The importance of public libraries and their role in education is fundamental to the development of a free and prosperous society. Public libraries can be a determining element in sharing the opportunity for knowledge, while forming the new generation of professionals and educated citizens who will guarantee the principles of freedom that our Founding Fathers envisioned for our republic.

The problem that we have been facing, as a free society in the last decades, is the continued and always increasing the burden of taxation to fund such a task. Taxation is against the principles of freedom, since it requires the coercion by the state in taking wealth from individuals without their consent, with the justification that it is used for the common good or service. Forced taxation becomes even more reprehensible when the taxpayer does not want to use or does not need the service, but regardless, he or she is still forced to pay for it. This is what I denounce, without apology, as “legalized extortion.”

I created a free-market solution that would solve the problem in funding public libraries without the use of coerced tax dollars, while creating a surplus of revenue that could benefit other public services in Mohave County.

The principle of the solution is based on the free-market service called advertising where no coercion is necessary, and the potential advertiser is motivated by potential economic and positive image gains in return for the initial investment that is also a tax write-off as an expense.

The general concept is that every inch of the library is a potential place for advertisements and sponsorships where private businesses or individuals can sponsor specific items or places. Here are some examples:

1) Books

An average library has 30,000 books or more. Each book can be sponsored by a business or individual for the affordable rate of $120 for a year.

A specific sticker created in-house will be applied to the plastic jacket of the book. Just imagine the potential revenue: multiply $120 x 30,000 units or so. Discounts for volume purchase can be made available.

Two proposed conditions:

A) The book chosen to be sponsored will be selected in a blind system to guarantee that every book is encouraged to be read. We do not want to penalize or support any specific author. Freedom of speech must be guaranteed in our libraries. Sponsors will still be recognized on a publicly available list.

B) The sponsored product must be family-friendly oriented. No X-rated products, alcohol or any product that is not allowed to minors.

2) The Official Name of the Library

An open-bid auction will give the opportunity for a business or individual to officially give their name to the library for two fiscal years. A billboard will be placed on the premises of the library with the name of the sponsor. For example, “Business X Public Library.” Imagine the potential positive-image return for the sponsor and economic benefit for the library: a win-win situation. This requires a minimum 2-year contract.

3) Parking Spots

Each parking spot can be sponsored with a plaque positioned on each. A minimum 1-year contract.

4) Tables and Chairs

Each table will have a center plaque with the name of the sponsor, and each chair will have a special sticker on the back. A minimum 1-year contract.

5) Bathrooms

Each outer door of each bathroom can be sponsored with a plaque, in addition to each door of each stall. A minimum 1-year contract.

Potential Pool of Sponsors

Mothers and children are great users of libraries, creating a perfect niche of potential customers for our ideal sponsors: grocery stores, doctors, dentists, lawyers, home services, beauty saloons, hospitals. From small businesses to corporate enterprises, every local business can benefit in sponsoring our library in exchange for a fantastic image return and potentially a huge economic return with a guaranteed tax write-off.

Think about it: “This book is brought to you by X Grocery Store.” Would you go spend your money at that store knowing that your money goes back to educating your child? I would.

Other Important Considerations:

1) The use of two or more third-party advertising firms would guarantee a professional, competitive way to find sponsorship without creating a burden on the county.

2) The county owns the library. It is still a public library, but it’s now finally funded by private businesses and free, willing individuals without the use of forced and increased taxation.

3) An assessment of actual operating costs of the library must be addressed in relation to the private sector.

4) This model could be used for every library around the state of Arizona and the nation.

5) It is worth trying. The taxpayers deserve to know there is an alternative to taxes.

I pledge the first $1,000 to sponsor the Mohave County Library with my Zanna Coffee. I am pretty sure many other business owners will want to be part in this venture.