St. Landry Parish is the only parish in the state without a library system, but a new group is hoping to change that.
Bruce Gaudin, who is serving as chairman of the St. Landry Parish Library Coalition, came before the St. Landry Economic and Industrial Development District Tuesday asking for its support.
“We would like to hold an election May 3, though the parish council needs to pass a resolution to call for that election,” Gaudin said.
What the group hopes to put before the voters is a 5.5 mill property tax, which would generate about $3 million a year.
SLEIDD said it is not its policy to get involved in a political issue, but offered a strong endorsement of a parishwide library system in general.
“We are obviously in favor of libraries. Libraries are beneficial to workforce development and community development in general,” said Board President Andy Dakin. “Libraries are a valuable economic development tool.”
As for a 5.5 mill tax to support such a parishwide system, Dakin said it isn’t SLEIDD’s place to take a stand for or against that. “Let the people decide,” Dakin said.
SLEIDD did allow the group to use its incubator office to host a planning meeting in December to discuss the proposal.
“We are inviting all our supporters to come out for that,” Gaudin said. “It will be a learning meeting.”
Gaudin argued the parish desperately needs libraries, pointing to the parish’s 62 percent high school graduation rate — well below the state average of 72.3 percent rate.
The parish also has a 22.5 percent adult illiteracy rate, which, he argues, is even worse when one looks at functional literacy — the ability to read well enough to fill out applications or hold a job. In terms of functional illiteracy, the parish rate is closer to 45 percent.
He argues all this translates into low wages and few prospects for the parish’s citizens.
Although the parish does not have a parishwide library system, it is already home to three full-service libraries, one each in Opelousas, Eunice and Sunset. There are also several other strong local libraries, such as the one in Krotz Springs, as well as what could best be described as reading rooms in other communities such as Washington.
But only the Opelousas and Eunice libraries are in a shared system, with all the rest left to fend for themselves.
Supporters argue that more than most institutions, libraries benefit from being part of a system, allowing them to share resources, expertise and attract outside funding.