Litchfield's Carnegie Library is a grand structure that was originally tasked with noble purpose to be a learning center for Litchfield's citizens both young and old alike.
In funding over 3000 public libraries in 47 states, Carnegie said " it is the mind that makes the body rich" and even at the age of 15, he "resolved, if ever wealth came to me that other poor boys might receive opportunities similar" to those he received by reading the loaned books of an older friend. I guess his philosophy worked. Before he died in 1919, Carnegie had been worth–in today's dollars–over $320 billion (yes, that's billion) all of which he donated mostly to educational causes.
Therein lies the rub. Fast forward 100 years to Litchfield 2017. We have a centerpiece building in our midst that has lost its purpose. The smell of cats and musty outdated books need to give way to a higher and better educational use of that Grand Old Dame on our square, and in keeping with Carnegie's noble purpose of learning, because we have trouble right here in Litchfield city. That's trouble, with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "E" and that means education.
Litchfield, and by extension Montgomery County, is devoid of opportunity and compelling reasons for those of our youth to come back after seeking higher education–that is for those select few who make it that far.
The facility could be used during the day as a place where adults could be prepped to pass their GEDs, give the unemployed/ underemployed coaching skills on grooming for a job interview, writing resumes and properly responding to ads for employment, and seeking job training partnerships with local businesses similar to union apprenticeship programs.
Naturally, we should not lose sight of those who would like to benefit from books, multi-media and computer learning centers. Hold periodic classes on everyday subjects not taught in schools, ACT and SAT preparation, how to apply for student loans and scholarships and grants, properly filling out college applications, credit applications, job applications and home loan applications, how to figure out installment credit interest rates or read car purchase contracts, how to read insurance policies to understand coverage for homes and vehicles, how to balance a checkbook, to name a few.
In the evenings, hold classes for tutoring in academic skills like reading comprehension. Use it as a resource for students having difficulty in core curriculum subjects like math and English. Get a Sylvan Learning Center in here with teaching professionals who get rent free in exchange for reduced rates that grants might help pay for. Have meeting rooms for group counseling, substance abuse and family counseling. There are plenty of community enriching pursuits that sections of the building can be used for.
So, now you see my point of view. But as I tell my employees, don't complain unless you have some suggestion on how to solve the problem. Here's one that might be a good start: Carnegie Library needs a rebirth in keeping with its original purpose. It will take money, dedication, sponsorship by local businesses consistent community participation and support.
Notice the word "consistent." This can't be a flash-in-the-pan effort. A non profit, non governmental organization or corporation needs to be set up to remodel and operate the effort. Financial support and quality and qualified supervision needs to be ever present. And never give up. Never give up. This is a multi-generational problem we have and it won't be solved in five or 10 years.
Of course, Carnegie understood the problem. That's why he built his libraries to stand the test of time. The overwhelming number of his libraries are still with us 100 years later. Carnegie's own foundation may be a source of funding, as might be many of the historic old charities like the Rockefeller Foundation, The Harriman Trust, The Mellon Foundation, etc. Raising money for such a worthwhile (especially educational) effort isn't as hard as you might think. It will take millions of dollars.
I'll give it a start by putting my money where my mouth is: I will match the first $10,000 that's raised. Contact me. It's never been more important: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Bailey, President
Financial Services of America