THE old trouble caused by local authorities levying rates on Public Libraries has been coming to the fore in several places lately. There is usually a great deal of discussion, but little is done to clear the ground. It has been decided that Public Libraries are liable to be assessed for local rates, and no amount of talking will alter that position at present. But something can be done to try to induce the local authorities to abandon their present endeavour to “bring everything into line” (as some of them have it) by making Public Libraries pay full rates. While it is perfectly legal to make Public Libraries pay these rates, yet it does not seem to be understood clearly that the local assessment committees have full discretion in the application of this legal power. They have the power to assess fully, nominally, or not at all. We put this emphatically because some of the statements we have seen indicate that there is a belief in certain districts that the rates must be levied. Now the payment of full or any large proportion of local rates is a serious item in the limited expenditure of a Public Library; and at the same time it is a negligible addition to the general income of a locality. In other words, this sum of money is a mere drop in the bucket to the locality as a whole, while it may mean all the difference between efficiency and stagnation to the Public Library. From a purely business point of view it seems somewhat futile to levy a certain limited amount of money for the maintenance of a Public Library, and then to cripple that institution by diverting a portion of that money in the direction of sewers, roads, or any of the other departments of municipal activity, none of which is similarly limited in its expenditure. What has to be done therefore, is to emphasize the permissive nature of powers of the local assessment committees, and to try and obtain either exemption from rates, or at most a nominal assessment.
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