A colleague received an E-mail from a patron soon after the patron moved to Japan. Artist and author John Becker (Japanese name Bekka Jion) told about uniformed Japanese library workers who laughed at his jokes and brought him “the hot towel to relieve weary shoulders.”
He also reports on the library workers’ answer to why they don’t have library fines: “Why should you not be responsible? If you are human, why would you want to shame yourself with thoughtless irresponsibility? And why would we shame ourselves by not trusting you, Bekka-san?”
Now there’s a different way of looking at things. Drape hot therapeutic towels over customers. Expect the return of materials as a matter of honor.
Today has been a day . . . as we collectively memorialized the life of Michael Jackson and the jolt we felt at his sudden death. He died the same day as Farrah Fawcett. We expected her to die. I agonized as I watched her last days captured on film that were so much like the days which we walked through with dear Sandy just over a year ago. But Michael? I have been silently cheering him on to a comeback on his world tour, and new ground-breaking music.
MJ was bigger than life. Most conversations I’ve had in the last week have at least touched on what his musical contributions meant to us. My memories center on two 5-year old boys, one white Scandinavian, the other black with pigtails all over his head, singing Beat It at the top of their lungs on our back patio. Or the whole group of neighborhood kids (as racially diverse as any group of military brats can be) roller skating to the Thriller CD on that patio. And a half-time show at a high school football game in Berlin Germany, where the high school choir I directed led a mass singing of We Are the World that gave all in the stadium a lump in their throat.
Thank you, Michael. With all your imperfections you made the musical world a better place.
In November of 2008, 56% of Minnesota voters approved what has come to be known as the Legacy Amendment. The goal of the Amendment is to appropriate money from constitutionally dedicated funds and provide for policy and governance of outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage purposes.
The Amendment raised the state sales tax 3/8 of 1%, starting July 1, 2009 and lasting 25 years. Libraries were included in the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the legislation, which will receive 19.75% of the sales tax generated each year. This Fund will be divided among many recipients, including the following:
Board of Arts (with opportunities for partnerships with libraries and schools)
Regional Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs (will receive $4.25 million in FY 2010 and $4.25 in FY 2011)
Minnesota Digital Library (will receive $500,000 in FY 2010)
Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs is allocated to the 12 regional public library systems according to the current regional library basic system support (RLBSS) grant formula. In addition to our local programming, ECRL will participate along with the other regional public library systems to fund a state project to bring arts and culture into libraries.
Libraries will be good stewards of this money. As the center of our communities, we are looked to as cultural leaders. The Legacy Amendment funds will enable us to bring even more cultural experiences to communities from the metro area to the rural areas commonly referred to collectively as Greater Minnesota.
I’ve been planning with my staff and board for how we can best use this money. Little thought has gone to where it comes from — after all, it’s only 3/8 of 1% sales tax. That’s hardly noticeable at all.
That’s what I thought until this morning. Almost every day on my way to work I stop at the local Holiday station to feed my addiction with a large Diet Coke. I run into the station store with a dollar and a nickle clutched in my hand to pay for the 99 cent drink. Trouble is, today when I stopped to pay on my way out the door and held out the dollar bill and nickel in my hand, the clerk said $1.06. I must have looked puzzled, because she quickly added, “that’s that new culture tax.” The tone in her voice indicated she didn’t share my positive view of the “culture tax.”
Hmmm, a tax no one’ll notice? Not exactly. So now I carry in a dollar and a nickel and a penney.