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Voters can offer libraries a lifeline

According to the Surgeon General’s “2023 Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” there is a public health crisis of lack of connection in the United States.

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This type of disconnection has been identified as fundamentally affecting our mental, physical and societal health, at its worst including premature death at levels comparable to smoking daily.

What does this have to do with libraries?

Research also shows that the healthiest communities promote social cohesion, which describes the connectedness of a group, or the sense of belonging and relationships among members. These are the relationships that lead to the sharing of childcare among young parents, meals brought to the family experiencing a health struggle, the neighbor who mows your lawn or takes in mail when you’re away. They are the connections that make a community function well and build history that can be drawn on in times of stress.

What happens in our communities to the elderly person who has lost most of their friends or loved ones? The young mother isolated at home with an infant? Or a newcomer to a village?

In the healthiest communities there are places to gather, meet others, accept outreach and form relationships. In the CVCS school district (and many rural communities) these opportunities occur through a library. In this district alone there are early childhood story hours, book clubs, writer’s groups, outreach services to the nearby retirement community, a knitting group, a “Maker Space,” a fly-tying group, a homeschoolers group, a TOPS group and much more.

I have seen numerous relationships formed in a library that have strengthened individuals and their communities. One example is the fly-tying group in Sinclairville. This group of people who met to share a skill not only became fishing friends, they also now serve as regular teachers who have shared the skill with library youth, boy scouts, veterans, homeschooling families, county-wide ‘Envirothon’ participants, students on school field trips, and more. This healthy outdoor activity has been shared numerous times because a group was able to form at the library.

Libraries locally and across the country are struggling to meet rising costs of operation. Some have closed. There is a proposition on the CVCS school budget ballot on Tuesday that would allow a tax levy to fund the library. If passed, this would create sustainable funding through the levy. The libraries would no longer require support from local municipalities. More information and cost per household can be found on the Stockton, Cassadaga or Sinclairville library websites.

Please vote and consider what libraries offer your communities. It’s not just about books. The presence of a safe place to connect, or lack of one, can have a real impact on the wellness of people in your neighborhood.

Lisa Greeley is a Gerry resident.

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