The word is finally out. In a report in the Boston Globe, nine Massachusetts libraries have been decertified by the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners due to the recession (four were named in an earlier article). In Mass. decertification means that those libraries are inelligble for state aid and for membership in the regional resource sharing consortia. It is also highly suggested that other libraries refuse to issue library cards to residents of decertified communities.
Before continuing, I think a moment of silence for the fallen is in order:
Besides these communities there are also two long standing one, Hancock was decertified back in 1975, and Tyringham’s decertification goes all the way back to 1961. Then there are also the handful of towns that have simply never had a library. These last two categories are the ones that give us pause at my own library.
I’m a supporter of the decertification blacklist, it gives an incredible incentive for municipalities to want to fund their libraries, some of which (I’m looking at you Fitchburg) really need the kick in the teeth. However, my library is uniquely situated right by both Tyringham and Hancock, as well as 2 more towns that simply don’t have libraries. We’re also often thought of us a county library, although we’re not (this is why our website is pittsfieldlibrary.org and all our stationary strongly proclaims us to be Pittsfield’s public library). But as the largest library in the region we sort of are by default, and we still receive many patrons from these neighboring towns who have always considered us to be their library.
Turning away a patron from a town that has never had a library is very different to doing so to one from a city that thought it could cut 68% of the budget without repercussions. And unfortunately the way the system is built refusing service to decertified communities really has to be an all or nothing prospect. But by and large libraries across the state have shown a lot of solidarity on this issue, and the blacklist has remained. This is probably as it should be, but it does leave a few towns unfortunately screwed, and they will stay screwed even when the economy turns around and budgets start increasing again (so I’m an optimist).