Eastham?s 'Jurassic Library' Proposal

A $9.2 million “Taj Mahal” library will be a mausoleum like it's namesake

In recent days we have read of yet another Capetown’s misguided proposal to build a large library addition. Eastham’s library trustees this week proposed a $9.2 million, 16,800square foot library featuring a 135 seat meeting space that could accommodatelarge gatherings and performances.


Each book circulates 2.35times in a year.  For that, the library proponents want the town to borrow$4.5 million with the state picking up the balance of the $9.2 million to build a museum to hold a collection thatsees most of its books sit idle year upon year.

What are they smoking at the Eastham Library? Common sense recently prevailed in Sandwich, after the selectmen rejected a$15.2 million library upgrade.  Other towns are cutting back on libraryservices as fiscal exigencies dictate municipal cutbacks.

Thereal issue here is that libraries as currently envisioned are on the verge ofobsolescence. A 2006op-ed piece in Kansas’ Lawrence Journal World explained the conceptquite well – and set off a firestorm of controversy in that city. 

In that piece, author Mark Hirschey hit the nail on the head – todaypeople seek fast, convenience access to up-to-date information. For most of usthat means the Internet.  As Hirshey continues, “Modern information technology involves two-way communicationbetween providers and users of information technology. With instant messaging,blogs, message boards, and email, the Internet fosters information sharing amongvirtually unlimited numbers of information providers. Computers arecommunication devices that bring communities together.”


The plans call for a 16,800 square foot library with a 135 seat meeting space costing $9.2 million.

Capturing the future

In 1996 we started CapeCodToday.com to target the newsappetite of the generation then coming of age.  That generation has now startedfamilies and moved into the mainstream of local society. 

The mediaconsumption of this demographic is all about Kindle/Nook e-readers, gettingnews content over the Internet, NetFlix and more.  A quick look at the businessnews tells the tale quite well: 

  • Borders in bankruptcy,
  • Dish Networkpurchasing the remains of Blockbuster video,
  • print newspapers closing and
  • independent book sellers on the rocks. 

Even our oldest readers haveembraced the e-book and the concept of on-line news sites as their primarysource of local and national news.

At $9.2 million and 49,000 books, that's $188 per book.
Kindles cost $139 each for access to 810,000 books.

A recent story about the proposed Eastham library boastedthat book circulation has grown to 115,000 books annually.  Thelibrary’s collection has grown to 49,000 volumes.

This means that, on the average, each book circulates 2.35times in a year.  For that, the library proponents want the town to borrow$4.5 million with the state picking up the balance of the $9.2 millionestimated cost.  $9.2 million to build a museum to hold a collection thatsees most of its books sit idle year upon year.

Oh wait, there’s the 135 seat meeting and performancespace!  Why on earth should the taxpayers pay to build that space whenthere are two beautiful schools in town, a town hall, the Sheraton Four Pointsconference center, the Elks hall and numerous church venues.  If thelibrary tribe wants performance and meeting space, why not use existing townfacilities or support local businesses?

We also haven’t seen any numbers yet on how much itwill cost to staff and operate the new “Taj Mahal” library. The name choice, by the way, was deliberate since the Taj Mahal is after all avery opulent mausoleum.

Instead buy a color e-reader for everyone in Eastham for $1.4m

When is the last time you went to the library?  Afifty-year-old colleague of ours told us that he just picked up his firstlibrary card in over twenty-five years.  Why, you ask?  Because hewanted to be able to use the CLAMS system to borrow e-books on his Barnesand Noble Nook.  He visited the library to get the card and he said he willlikely never set foot in there again.

Make the present Eastham Library 41 times larger for $14,500

Now there’s an idea!  Perhaps the library shouldinvest in 100 or so Kindles and/or Nooks, and let folks rent them for a dollar a month toborrow e-books through CLAMS.  Fifty Kindles and fifty Nooks would cost $14,500 a full retail price. That's less than 1 percent of what the proposed libray would cost, and so much more 21st century for the town.

The Town of Eastham web site lists the population as 5,646.  The Barnes & Noble Nook Color sells at retail for $249.  They could buy a Nook Color for every single person in town for $1.4 million, which is a lot less than spending $9.2 million on a mausoleum.  The library could spend another $150,000 to purchase 10,000 Nook book titles for lending to its 5,646 new Nook patrons.

The good people of Eastham are respected across the Cape fortheir common sense.  We trust this noble virtue will once again rise up toreject the Jurassic Library at Town Meeting on May 2nd and,necessary, in the May 17th town election.

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