We want dessert: Save Esper Library

Photo by Neam Zalzala

Neam Zalzala’s 8-year-old daughter, Fedek Alijawad, makes her feelings known about saving Esper Library.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as I read the local newspaper, “And Esper library is scheduled to permanently close by 2013.”

“Why, Mama?” my 8-year-old sniffled. She snatched the local paper from my hands to re-read the Dearborn city budget cuts. I thought for a moment. So I began a simple explanation to this complex issue. “Well, the city needs to cut down on using its money. So think about your dinner time. Let’s say that police and firefighters are the main parts of the meal, like meat and potatoes; you have to have those. But the last course is dessert, which can be the libraries. Do you always need dessert?”

Wow, what a silly question to ask a kid. What child will rationalize cutting out dessert, the most important part of her meal? Therefore, I would like to ask: “How can we, citizens of Dearborn, budget wisely and tighten our metaphoric belt, to keep the entire dinner — main course and dessert?

As an educator, I like to simplify tedious lingo to focus on the main ideas for my students to understand. But after attempting to decipher the codes of at least five different Dearborn budget-issue worksheets I find myself in a fog — it’s heavy reading. I simply uploaded and saved the PDF file from: http://www.cityofdearborn.org/component/content/article/49/619-current-budget-discussion-documents.

Without a financial or accounting background, Dearborn residents will not understand the content of the matter. Bottom line: it’s not clear cut and there hardly will be a simple explanation. Before I give false information, I will need to consult with financial and accounting experts and city officials to “teach” this complex matter.

Instead, I would like to provide a short list of suggestions that possibly could be implemented to keep Esper Library open:

• Enhance the volunteer program to recruit even more senior citizens, college students and high school students. (Side note to all college and high school students: You need volunteer hours. So why not help your library?)

• Reduce the hours of operation (even more) to the most busiest times.

• Install more motion-detector lighting and other power-saving lighting.

• Adjust the settings of heating/cooling to a more cost-efficient temperature.

• Design a citywide fundraiser program inviting all Dearborn residents and businesses.

While this list can continue, I only wanted to share a snippet.

Esper library is more than just a library — it’s a community center for the new fawns (children) and the seasoned bucks (older generation). I’m proud to have “lived” in Esper library most of my childhood — the summer reading program was my summer’s highlight of those years. At that time,
I lived in poverty and both my parents worked and struggled to make ends meet, which left no budget for paid programs. Now, my struggle continues, not in poverty but in the threat of unnerving budget cuts throughout Michigan, which could jeopardize all of our jobs.

From an educator’s standpoint, so much informal learning is taking place that can never be supplemented in any school experience. The joy, no, the love for reading twinkles in children’s eyes as they cuddle up in a cozy niche hugging toys and books waiting to dive into their imaginations.

The social atmosphere buzzes with diverse conversations, from casual school life chats to intellectual negotiations of famous authors’ view points.

Not to mention the multilingual collection housed at Esper library — of a special note, the largest collection of Arabic language books. In regard to being bilingual (or even multilingual), educational research supports the benefits of knowing more than one language will enhance brain development.

As my final statement, a plea to city officials, please don’t deprive Dearborn residents from our much-needed Esper library, our dessert!

(Neam Zalzala is a 25-year Dearborn resident. Two of her three children — the third being 6 months old — attend Dearborn Public Schools. She is an adjunct instructor at Henry Ford Community College and University of Michigan-Dearborn, and a Wayne State University doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Education.)