Roy Exum: The Chattanooga-Only Library

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago traffic had stopped on Broad Street, as is to be expected when you close down two bike lanes for the ghosts, and I was stopped in front of the Chattanooga Public Library. In the time I was stopped, I didn’t see one kid – not one – go in the door or out. The fact is that our library, chock full of so much wonder and delight, is the biggest travesty on our city’s horizon.

Look at where we are … we have 40 percent of the 43,500 children in Hamilton County public schools who cannot read over grade level and that once upon a time (2011) some board members who have never read one book on greatness decreed that only people within the city of Chattanooga are invited inside.

The geniuses, their “elite liberal” pelts thick with stupidity’s slime, mount their haughty soapbox and spew at the county residents the ridiculous nonsense -- Since Hamilton County government does not  support the “Friends of the Library” in their yearly budget, you can shove that “Friends” word deep in your ear.

Any person not housed within in the city limits must pay a $50 yearly fee.

It’s insane! We’ve got kids who don’t know what, where, or when their next meal is coming from and here is some moron demanding $50 in cash before they can get through the door? But, glory, this is easily solved by using the library’s own reasoning. It’s so simple it is brilliant – the city of Chattanooga does not give Erlanger Hospital, our region’s Level One trauma provider, not one thin dime. It is not even a budget line item. What if Erlanger sent the City Treasurer a monthly statement of … say, just $100 bucks … for every person who resides within the city limits who arrives with a gunshot wound?

Guess what? In a city that is now ranked by the FBI in “The Ten Most Dangerous Cities” in the United States, as well as considered one of the Ten Worst Run Cities in the United States, our ambulance trucks now make over 400 special deliveries a year of gunshot victims to Erlanger Hospital. Almost every one of those shot is indigent and almost every shot is fired within  Chattanooga’s city limits.  

My thinking is that if the library charges $50 to everyone who lives outside the city limits, the county places a very reasonable fee on every shooting inside the pay-for-nothing Chattanooga city limits. At $100 a pop, 400 participants will bring in $40,000 for library cards. I’m thinking with 80,000 library cards (at $50 per), we can sell our extras to Cleveland, Ringgold, Dayton .. is this a great country or what?

So, at a time when Erlanger’s indigent care is now $132 million a year – that’s every year or, if you’d rather, $11 million each month - does it not seem logical and good for the city of Chattanooga’ Council to help pay a little of the freight to season a touch of the greed they have flaunted at the county since 2011.

Actually, the only thing the city’s smear has accomplished is to ruin the library’s appeal. I was in the crowd when the late Alex Guerry revived the place and this travesty should never – ever – have happened. Because I refuse to pay $50 when, like the rest of America, I can access more on my office Internet.

So – admit it – the library has become nothing more than an albatross but with little next to nothing, we can turn it into the hottest new shiny tool for education you ever saw. Walk with me into – let’s say – Calvin Donaldson School. And let’s tell a cluster of kids we are going to take each of ‘em to church all day on Saturday. They would in turn throw every rock within reach and aim for your eyes.

So let’s try this: “How many of ya’ll would like to go to the public library tomorrow? We have movies … fun books to read instead of the same old hay the schools force you to chew. We’ll have fun people from your neighborhoods to help you read, understand how gadgets work and, whoa! You gotta’ keep this on the down low – loose lips sink ships! – but between 11 o’clock and 2 – separate groups will go to the Krystal and we’ve got a stack of those all-you-can eat coupons! Think … all the hamburgers, fries and Cokes you can stuff in during one sitting!”

Don’t kid yourself. We have “field trips” set up. Once these kids see such a Disneyland, the sell is over! On the ride back to school each child gets a bag with one Krystal, one small fries, and one small drink. You like the way that tastes? What if I told you on Saturday it is all you can eat!

Don’t you see? The library – a place none has ever been – is the draw. I’m telling you it is “Six Flags.” But the best part, better than a movie, a warm French fry, is the one thing each wants more than anything in the world …

“Somebody to care about me.” Any teacher will  -- the tougher the home life, the more starved for affection. And if we could get some “grannies” from our black church congregations, we could take our horribly underused library, and our forgotten children who hate the weekends because they get nothing to eat … I’ve got a hunch we could stop getting up to read a 14-year-old just shot a couple of 11-year-olds outside of Riverbend – all three with no supervision after 10 ‘clock.

Our black preachers, the very same group of hypocrites who now preside over a black-on-black murder funeral at least once a week (!) are busy trying to castigate the best sheriff our county has ever had. What if this Godly collection with its sensational congregations spent Saturdays taking our kids from the poverty neighborhoods to the library, where they could watch documentary movies, use the computers, check out books, get no-cost lessons that make their school-issued lap pads work much easier?

I am fortunate to know a bunch of black clergy, but rather than stir up hate for the sheriff, why not approach his office for deputy sheriffs who would maintain exemplary behavior that each pastor found a blessing in their march up Jacob’s Ladder? You give me 20 of the faithful from Olivet Baptist, or Warren Chapel AME, or Bernie Miller’s crowd at New Covenant. We can help 10 times the children who last Saturday were wandering around East Lake looking for just one person who will let ‘em come in just to share their TV.

* * *

Yesterday afternoon I kicked some of this around with a disbelieving pal on my porch and he agrees it is only fitting and right that we get “Sully The Sign Maker” and build a big sign that we must place on the front of the library. We believe in less than a week we can have ample funding (read ‘overflowing”) to obtain a really ritzy one that reads “The Chattanooga-Only Library” in an apology to the majority in our community.

Do you realize, this to be politically correct, we can propose to the Attorney General that federal funding for our public library must now bear an “asterisk,” denoting our county residents are being denied access to the municipal monstrosity that prohibits children from the Hamilton County Department of Education, this in a place where there are no longer any Chattanooga City Schools?

But, hey, the stupids have their own library – The Chattanooga-Only Public Library. I wonder if Sully can build and mount that sign before a Federal Judge orders it down?

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