Libraries aren’t accustomed to playing a central role in heated political debates.
Yet that’s what’s happening in the town of Hancock, where leaders have split over the location of a new library that is to replace an aging, cramped facility in Widmeyer Park.
The town council prefers building the new library in the park where it is now, while the Chamber of Commerce wants a downtown location that will lure library patrons into Hancock’s shopping district.
Seemingly everyone in Hancock has chosen sides, and it’s become one of the more contentious issues in recent memory.
Which is too bad, because each side makes a valid point.
A library is well-suited to a park setting, and the property is already on public ground, meaning no taxable property would be lost.
On the other hand, downtowns across the land are all in need of feet on the ground. Those who would come to the library might also use the opportunity to shop or eat.
This has actually become part of the argument against a downtown library, strangely enough, since some seem to be concerned that private business people might have something to gain from a downtown library.
Well, yes, but we don’t view that as a bad thing. Part of the vision for the rebuilt library in downtown Hagerstown is that it will serve as a hub of community involvement in the city and might spur economic growth at the same time.
But our bigger concern at this point is that positions in Hancock will harden to the point the entire project is jeopardized.
New libraries are not a given, and all hands need to be on deck and working on the same team to make this project a reality.
We have great respect for the people on both sides of this debate, and we have nothing against a spirited discussion over the library’s location.
But we would urge everyone to understand that there is no wrong answer here. Both locations have their benefits, which in the final analysis is a good problem to have.
So after the public meetings have been held and the decision has been made, we hope that all parties will put any residual hard feelings to rest and work hard to make the new library — wherever it is to be — the successful project that the residents in and around Hancock deserve.