Cache Valley: Books don’t make money

What’s wrong with used books?”

“They’ve already been read.”

—From the film, “Back to School”

Hipster Caines
by Harry Caines

Books don’t make money. Especially books that are lent out for free. And few people read books anymore. Reading a book requires effort. Effort is for suckers.

I read books, but I am a weirdo. Only a nutjob in this world of lightning-fast gratification would consider sitting on a couch, or at a coffeehouse, with a book in their hands to be a stimulating endeavor. And I almost never buy books. I usually borrow books from the Utah State University library and return them within three weeks.

Books are not going the way of VCRs and pagers; but, it is a medium whose apex is in the past. Books will join that other dinosaur of a bygone literate age—the newspaper—in becoming a novelty for those who consider being “well read” a virtue of intellectualism.

Speaking of things that are near dead, the City of Logan has a serious problem. No one shops downtown. Few frequent downtown businesses with any regularity. Well, people go to the White Owl and Caffe Ibis in healthy numbers…but we all know that that money is worth less than “family friendly” greenbacks, don’t we?

Many in Logan and the surrounding burgs shop at box stores and chains that litter Cache Valley. Or, they leave here entirely for the variety provided in the bigger towns along the Wasatch Front. And, of course, online shopping is reliable and easy.

I walk in downtown Logan nearly every day of the week. I see the lack of walking shoppers along Main Street. It speaks ill of Logan to have such a dormant downtown area.

It does not help when the elected officials in Cache Valley—and, most specifically, Logan—seem to have an outmoded philosophy on how to revitalize a town that desperately needs an influx of innovated thinking.

Two Walmarts? Sure! A Burger King on every corner? How 1982 of you! Cookie-cutter rental housing that depreciates land value and invites more people to live in Cache Valley to fight for low-paying retail jobs? Build, baby, build!

And now, the crescendo of municipal government banality. This week, Logan Mayor Craig Petersen announced that the city is purchasing the mostly-empty Emporium—smack in the middle of Main Street—to build a new…(DRUM ROLL)…library!

Price tag? Start with the $2 million just to buy the archaic building. And then whatever city officials say it will cost to redesign the area, which no doubt will be a low ball estimate, and this could be a $12 million dollar boondoggle. And what does downtown get out of this? A place where people can borrow a product for free that they utilize less frequently as technology advances.

Added to all this, Mayor Petersen says raising property taxes to cover the costs of this project might come to pass. So, many Loganites are going to pay for books regardless if they borrow them or not.

Counterproductive. Short-sighted. Stupid.

Have those who spawned this idea, that would have been avant-garde in the 1950’s, been inside the current library recently? I walk through the parking lot almost every day…and usually more than once. It just isn’t that crowded. There are book shelves in the library that appear to be untouched for long durations. I could open a meth lab in some of the back rows and go unnoticed—and that is the only way I know of to make money from a library.

Wait! There is another way a library can make back the money it takes to build it. The city can raise the fee for overdue books to $5,000 a day. Otherwise, this idea is a loser from Day One.

I am all for imploding the Emporium…figuratively or literally. Outside of the upstairs restaurant space, the building offers little promise for prospective businesses. But any ideas for that space that does not include some form of shopping or entertainment is a waste of time, resources, funds and prime downtown acreage.

Downtown Logan is an embarrassment. It does not have to be this way. Last weekend, the bi-monthly Gallery Walk was a success. Every business I walked by and entered was busy. Locating the weekly Gardener’s Market at the Historic Courthouse for a second straight year is a smart move. Last year, I observed people walking downtown and shopping before and after visiting the market.

The businesses located at the intersection of Church Street and Federal Avenue are all doing robust business. Coffee, sandwiches, homemade soaps, live music, yoga and a bar that resembles a halfway house for Trump voters all benefit from being in an area I have nicknamed “Ground Zero for the Cache Valley Counterculture”.

A new sandwich shop, Even Stevens, is going to open up on Main Street this week. That statement should stand alone as an ensign of optimism for downtown. However, this new business—which prides itself on proactive civic involvement—has to gain approval for a liquor variance because it is located close to the Logan Tabernacle. The owners have to stand in front of a purportedly secular city council and the DABC and hope they are worthy enough to serve beer.

This is Utah.

If allowed to provide customers a beverage that none of the other 49 states in the Union considers to be a big deal, a new business opening in Logan would have to pay nearly $1,500 in fees just as a start up. Annual fees after that tally about $800.

This is why Logan is in trouble. The Powers That Be here use unnecessary laws and ordinances to deter and discourage businesses from bringing a much needed vitality to a downtown area hungry for fresh ideas from passionate entrepreneurs.

In their stead, Logan elected officials believe the best recourse to pump new life into a decaying area is to spend millions of dollars on a library…a venture that creates no money, no enthusiasm and no initiative to the local economy.

This is economic suicide. And the mausoleum where you can see the body lie in perpetual state will have thousands of unborrowed books standing guard over it.

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