It’s short for Municipal Appropriation Requirement, and it’s what makes a public library public rather than private. The idea: what is important shouldn’t be left to chance or to the capricious generosity of private patrons. Because a library provides a necessary service for its town, it should be adequately funded through the town government. When a Massachusetts town funds its library properly – providing funding for materials, staff, and adequate hours of operation – it meets its M.A.R. and is certified by the state.

With certification, the local town library becomes the doorway into a whole system of lending libraries. Teachers borrow materials for their classrooms, students get free copies of required books, and avid readers check out the latest Dan Brown novel. Movies, music, magazines, ebooks – it’s all yours for the checking out. If any library in the network has it, you can get it through your local library. Membership has privileges far beyond what can be found on the shelves, all for ensuring that the town funds its own library’s basic services.

I think the same is true in life. If I invest in the basics, the whole world opens up. Food, clothing, shelter, and loving support from family and friends on the individual level, adequate town services on the communal one. Many people I’ll never know made sure that the M.A.R. was met when I was a child, opening a door to the world for me. Now it’s my turn to do the same for children I’ll never know.

It may not seem like a big thing – not particularly expensive or headline grabbing. But look closer. The whole world waits on the other side of the door – a way to honor God by honoring the neighbor on my street and the neighbor not even born yet. I’d call that a blessing, if not a certification miracle…


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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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