To the Editor: Books Constitute Capital

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An abridged version of this letter was presented in remarks to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting Wednesday, December 7.

To the Editor,

My name is Doug Forrester, and since July of 2005, I have served as the pastor of Crozet United Methodist Church, at the corner of Crozet Avenue and Jarmans Gap Road. My wife Tracy is a fourth-grade teacher at Brownsville Elementary School. My oldest daughter Ellen is a student at Crozet Elementary, where I serve as a volunteer in the Eagle Time program. I am also the Chaplain of the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department.

When I arrived in Crozet in the summer of 2005, I almost immediately began to learn about Albemarle County’s plans for sustaining and revitalizing downtown Crozet. Indeed, the church I pastor willingly provided our space to you for several public hearings related to Crozet, and I found myself in meetings with persons from the County Development Office, where I learned about the plan for a new library in the heart of downtown Crozet.

My congregation and I were told that the County’s interest in a new Crozet Library extended beyond simply providing additional space for books, but that research had shown that one of the very best things local government can provide to aging downtown communities is a library, and that a new library would help to maintain the viability of our old downtown, even as development, including retail development, shifted to Old Trail.

This promise made, for the sake of all of Crozet and Western Albemarle County must become a promise kept. The population of Crozet has increased, doubling between the last two censuses. As Old Trail continues to develop, especially with the addition of the Lodge at Old Trail, there will continue to be a need for a new, larger, library. Our community has outgrown the Old Crozet Elementary School, outgrown Brownsville Elementary School to the point that is needed substantial renovation two years ago, outgrown Jarmans Gap Road, and outgrown Crozet Avenue, necessitating a new Streetscape Project. Should we be surprised that we have outgrown our existing library, a library housed in a tiny building never designed to be a library in the first place?

Thomas Jefferson said that “books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years.” Before us lies an opportunity to not only fulfill a promise made, not only to provide our community something it desperately needs for the sake of the whole community, but to provide to our children and our children’s children something that will outlive us, something that we believe has intrinsic worth, that will serve as a monument to the values we in this land of Jefferson hold dear: the attainment of knowledge, the stretching of the mind, the telling and retelling of stories.

Libraries have throughout history been a great cultural equalizer; no longer is access to books limited to the wealthy, those able to build personal collections, or limited to the academy and those privileged to be admitted to courses of study. Libraries have been and will continue to be a means by which our people live up to the very best of our egalitarian principles, providing an opportunity for erudition to rich and poor alike.

In my heart, I believe that the new Crozet Library will be built. I believe this because in my six and a half years here, I have witnessed the resilience of a people who believe in doing the requisite work necessary to do that which is right, and I have witnessed this in the lives and actions of Crozet natives as well as those who are new to our town. Doing that which is right for Crozet is something that unites the people Crozet. I believe this Library will be built because we will not cease to work towards that end, and I ask you, which side of history will future generations find our Supervisors?

Dear Supervisors, what we expect from you, our elected leaders, is that you do what is right, that you keep your promise to us. We harbor no illusions that this will be easy, yet you were not elected to positions of power to do that which is easy. You were elected to do that which is right. You were elected to lead the people under your care with great stewardship and self-sacrifice, and thus, we expect the very best from you, just as we expect the very best from ourselves, for the sake of our town, its people, and its future. Keep the promise. Build Crozet Library.

Douglas Forrester, M.Div.
Pastor
Crozet United Methodist Church