Somewhere out there is the kid who will cure cancer in 2035, or perhaps 2040, or 2055. We don’t know who he or she is and whoever makes the critical breakthrough will not do it alone. They will build on the work of many who came before them and the team they work with, but someone, or a small group, will have that “ah-ha moment” and they will get the credit that they richly deserve.
If it happens in 2055 instead of 2035 it may be because the kid who might have cured cancer 20 years earlier never had access to a good library, never fulfilled their potential, and went on to do something else. Someone else will come along and do it – eventually – but there will be a lot of unnecessary suffering in those extra two decades.
Not everyone has the brains and willpower to become a chemist, oncologist, or the any of the scientists and researchers searching for a cancer cure. In the same vein not everyone can become a great opera singer or engineer, but if they never hear the music or see a bridge they have much less of a chance to be either. A lifetime of dedication and accomplishment often starts at a very young age.
We have studied our own species ad nauseam, but we still don’t know exactly what makes the “click” that sends people into their life’s work; it can be something they see, hear, or read – perhaps someone they know, or a personal experience. We do know it’s critically important to expose young minds to a wide range of information and intellectual stimulus in their formative years and that’s what a good library does above all else.
The fact that some kids will walk in, look around, and walk out never to return does not phase me a bit, I just do not want to miss the kid that will end up curing cancer 20 years before the next one might come along.
Fifteen years ago, in 2000, California enacted a library bond to help fund major renovations and build new libraries by providing two-thirds of project funding. They eventually received 199 applications and approved 45 projects for more than $334 million in state funding. When the money ran out there were still 9 projects rated “outstanding”, costing $132 million, that could not be funded.
San Benito County was not selected which is not surprising since we never even applied; we were not ready. We did not have the political or community leadership and support, we did not have an up-to-date, professional, needs assessment, we did not have our share of the cost, and we did not have a plan for a new library, or one to win the project.
No one knows when the state may once again decide to fund a library bond, but if we miss it next time because we are unprepared it could be another 15 years wasted. If that happens a ten-year-old in 2000 would be over 40 before the county has a chance at a new library.
Could that ten-year-old have been the kid who was destined to cure cancer, or do something else wonderful, but who never got the magic “click”? We’ll never know, but we do know that in 2013 more than 12,600 residents of San Benito County were 14 or younger and if we fail to get ready many of the those kids, and ultimately all of us, will miss out.
In my next articles I will lay out exactly why we need a new library and what we should do to at least give ourselves a chance. We should not complain that we get no help if we are not even willing to help ourselves.
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" – John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)