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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 20, 2002

Kapolei Library: Public is ahead of Capitol

Over the years, our public servants have given us many opportunities to reflect on their failure to recognize whose interests they take an oath to uphold. The debate over the empty building at Kapolei that is supposed to be a library is just the latest.

On one side are the residents of the Kapolei area who have long wanted a library and are willing to make do with second-best until a "real" library can be opened. On the other is the Legislature, which didn't fund book purchases.

Caught squarely in the middle is State Librarian Virginia Lowell, who quite rightly insists that a library should be professionally stocked and operated.

Lowell fears that if she gives in to the residents, the Legislature will be tempted to never fund a proper collection and the area will have to make do with a nonprofessional setup.

But everyone in this messy scenario should recognize that it is the residents who are truly being ill-served.

It is the state that designated Kapolei as an area for growth. It built a state building and encouraged business to relocate. It needed to fully plan infrastructure, and that includes stocking a library building with library books.

With Hawai'i'sz economy struggling, it is easy to argue that books take a low priority against other needs. But it seems pointless to have built a building and then plead poverty when it comes time to stock it and staff it.

And who loses out in this case? Not state officials but the residents of Kapolei who find their library is hostage to a system that has lost its way.

The passion shown by Kapolei residents for a library they can call their own is heartening; it shows a commendable focus on the things that are important in converting a collection of buildings into a true community.

It is time for elected officials to demonstrate a similar understanding of what is important and find a way to complete the library. And once that professional process is appropriately under way, we ask Lowell to let the residents start their volunteer, donated library to temporarily fill the void.