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Trustees Open House - MacKay Branch
On Wednesday, May 5th, 2010, the Board of Trustees of the Chelmsford Public Library held an "Open House" style meeting at the MacKay Branch Library. More than 70 patrons of the Library were in attendance, representing a broad cross-section of library users and neighbors.
Representing the Board were Trustees Maggie Marshall, David Braslau, Lisa Daigle and Carol Sneden. Also in attendance was Matt Hanson, one of the newest Chelmsford Selectman and a vocal supporter of both the MacKay and Adams Libraries during his campaign. At the request of the Trustees, Matt joined the Trustees to answer patron questions.
The Trustees began the meeting by explaining how the Library is funded:
The Library Budget for FY2011 was just approved by Town Meeting. We are pleased to report that the approved budget is a level-service budget. This means that the Library actually received a very small increase in funding to cover the required salary step increases and to cover the increase in benefits cost. This also means that there are no plans for a further reduction in Library hours or services at either the main Library or MacKay Branch.
At this funding level we will again need to apply for a waiver in order to qualify for State Aid. Unfortunately, this also means that there is no funding available to restore MacKay hours at least through the end of the next fiscal year.
Other factors influencing staffing and operating hours of the MacKay Branch:
The Trustees remain committed to keeping the MacKay Branch open.
Although current MacKay hours are limited to only two days per week, we are hopeful that hours could eventually be restored as the Town's fiscal health improves over the next several years. A further reminder of the Trustees commitment to MacKay is the more than $40K renovation that we funded just 1-1/2 years ago that dramatically improved the functionality and aesthetics of the Branch.
An interesting note: despite the reduction in operating hours, Library use and circulation is up. We attribute this increased use to belt tightening by our patrons: using Library computer access (even from the parking lot when the Library is closed, we discovered), borrowing books and DVDs instead of renting or buying them, and attending no-cost Library programs.
Summary of questions from patrons in attendance
Patrons asked if private fundraising would be possible. The Trustees noted that there are already three very effective ways to make donations to benefit the Library:
Patrons asked if they could raise funds specifically to increase the operating hours at MacKay. The Trustees indicated that this may not be possible, as salary and benefits are paid from the Town Budget and not from funds controlled by the Trustees. The patrons asked the Trustees to investigate this further and, if it is possible, to help establish a fund-raising target as a challenge to the MacKay patrons. The Trustees noted that sufficient funds would need to be raised to ensure long-term funding - it would not be practical to raise funds to add operating hours on an intermittent basis.
Matt Hanson also asked that the Trustees, in concert with the Library Director, identify a level of funding that would be needed from the Town to restore Library services, and specifically hours at MacKay. He committed to then exploring funding options with the Selectman should funds become available during the year. The Trustees agreed to assemble this information.
One idea raised during the discussion was whether it would be possible to raise money for the Library through a tax bill insert - in a similar way to the insert for the Public Schools Arts & Technology Fund. The Trustees agreed to look into this option to determine if it is viable.
After the Open House, Paul Cohen, town manager, supplied this information: "The state approves the form of municipal property tax bills. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 60, Section 3C allows a town, by town meeting vote, to add a place on the property tax bill for a town scholarship fund. Section 3D of Chapter 60 allows for a similar solicitation for an elderly and disabled taxation fund. Without a similar authorization from the state legislature, the Town cannot undertake a solicitation for the library. The Library Trustees and/or the Friends could contact the Town's state legislators to advance such legislation."
The Trustees closed the meeting after more than an hour with a commitment to provide a follow-up in the form of a written "talking points" document that will also provide specific contact information for the Friends of the Library and for other charitable giving opportunities.
Opportunities for more feedback
The Trustees also indicated that they plan to hold an Open House style meeting at the Adams Library to collect similar feedback from those patrons. This meeting has been scheduled for June 16th from 7-8 PM.
Also, as always, don't hesitate to contact Becky Herrmann, Library Director, to let us know your thoughts and concerns.
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