Posted tagged ‘economy’


September 15, 2009

I’ve avoided talking about the Cushing Academy bookless library bruhaha thus far.  Mostly this is because there is really nothing that hasn’t been said elsewhere.  But also because I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the situation.  The mere thought of a bookless library makes me shudder, but on the other hand libraries really do need to start thinking a bit radically and this certainly qualifies as that.

But now my local paper has gotten into the act, and has associated my library (as well as the nearby Lenox Library) and our budget difficulties with Cushing.  However, Cushing’s decission to turn their library into a techie information center doesn’t exactly speak ill of their budget.  What it does say is the Academy felt the books were being underutilized and that they were desperate to get students in the door.

Now this is a plan that just reeks of desperation.  The original globe article indicates that the library’s books were not circulating (albeit with fairly scant supporting evidence).  But let’s be generous and take this statement at face value.  If the academy is pumping thousands of dollars into a book collection that isn’t justifying that expense, then it’s not too hard to see how they could reach the conclusion that the books should go.  

This is sad, and horrifying, and despicable, but all too understandable.  I’m really hoping that history will eventually show Cushing to have been far too short sighted, but that may not be the case.  And I’ll be really surprised if another library doesn’t follow their example.

S.O.L.: June Edition

June 23, 2009

A few more distress calls have gone out this week.  

In local news the Lawrence Library in Pepperell is facing closure pending the results of an override vote on the 29th.  The town’s Senior and Community Centers are also at risk of losing their funding, so things are not looking to good in Pepperell.

Then there’s Ohio, where libraries are at risk of losing half their funding state wide.  A great site’s been put together for sharing information and organizing supporters.

Best of luck everyone

The Merry-Go-Round

June 16, 2009

After a few months of uncertainty, it looks like we finally have budget for the next fiscal year.  It’s worse than we hoped for, but better than we feared it would be, and I probably can’t talk too much about it yet.  So instead let’s talk about the agony that the last few months of worrying have been.

First of all, this is no one’s fault, and our city in particular has been fair and straight forward with us throughout the entire process.  But given the current economic climate there was no way for anyone to have a clear picture of what will be in store for the state next year.  

This last year we suffered a mid-year cut that crippled our book budget and brought about a hiring freeze.  We were also told to prepare for the worst for the next year.  We held meeting after meeting to prepare scenarios, about 5 I think, none of which wound up matching the “final” outcome.  On top of this we’ve been working on our long range plan, which has been nearly an impossible task without knowledge of the resources likely to be available to us (in the end we just went with being optimistic).

Understandably the stress level has been pretty high and morale has bottomed out.  So the last few months have been hellish, and there are troubles ahead, but we’ll endure and I think things will be better once we have a more certain future, even if its not the one we would really like it to be.

The Fight for Kirstein

April 7, 2009

The BPL is having problems, same as every other library in the state, but their’s an extra layer of politics involved in their situation that makes things interesting.  Last year in a widely publicized battle the BPL’s director, Bernard Margolis, was ousted thanks to his conflict with Boston’s Mayor Menino, to be replaced with Amy Ryan in October.

Ryan is the political player that Margolis wasn’t, not to mention someone who gets along very well with Menino.  Which calls into question her decission to close the Kirstein Business Branch in the financial district and move the collection to the main library at Copley.  On the surface it makes sense, it saves on the upkeep of an extra building, adds accessible hours to the collection, and avoids the need to duplicate materials in both locations.

However, the other thing the Kirstein is known for is its $5.2 million endowment, which may or may not be dependant on the building (the legal battle is ongoing).  Now one of the key points that contributed to the Menino/Margolis conflict was the Mayor’s desire to meddle in the BPL’s budget, and its endowments specifically.  So here we’ve got a new director who has Menino’s ear, whose first major budget cutting solution is to move the one outlying collection with such an endowment so that it lies withing the purview of Copley.

I can sympathize with the wish to have tighter control over endowments.  We have one at my library so restricted that we can almost never use it.  There are thousands of dollars sitting in an account, and if we’re lucky one book comes out a year that fits into the requirements necessary to tap into those funds.  It’s incredibly frustrating when you need funding and there’s a pile of cash just sitting there that’s still out of reach.  

But that’s how they work, and if we can deal with it for a fund that’s totally useless than the BPL ought to be able to do the same for what is one of their greatest assets.

Link Day

March 30, 2009

Just a couple links today that I feel the need to share, one good two bad.

Let’s start with the bad.  First up, the Mayor of Concord, New Hampshire (the capital of my home state) has announced that he is considering closing the library completely to help close the city’s budget gap.  Nothing final yet, but there’s something really sad about the prospect of a library-less capital.

Second, in news that isn’t much better the NYPL is looking at a potential 17% budget cut, which would necessitate a loss of 465 jobs and a reduction of hours to an average of 41/week in each location.  To put that in a little perspective, my library is open 63 hours a week, the minium mandated by the state for a library serving a community the size of Pittsfield.  NYC is just a little bit larger than us.

Now to cheer everyone up a little after that, Sarah Houghton-Jan (aka the Librarian In Black) has just put together one of the best presentations I’ve seen in quite a while.  Thus I am now happy to present the 10 Lol Cat Laws of Web Services for Smaller and Underfunded Libraries.

Save Our Libraries

March 26, 2009

I’ve started up a permanent page in response to all the awful news about Mass. libraries that I’ve been covering.  I’ll try to keep it as up to date as possible.  Sadly, there are quite a few additions from my update last week.

SOL: Aside

March 26, 2009

I’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about budget cuts at libraries, so here’s one for a change of pace.  Yesterday the ALA announced a $1.6 million shortfall, $500,000 of which must be cut this fiscal year.

SOL: Recap Edition

March 16, 2009

In the wake of the Globe’s latest article on the difficulties Mass. libraries are facing (including word of four newly decertified libraries), I think it’s time to review where we are:

Boston: Layoffs have begun, 1 branch closed.

Boxford: Risking closure of West Boxford branch.

Brockton: Risking decertification.

Chemlsford: Risking Decertification

Dennis: $13k cut from budget

Fitchburg: Decertified, budget slashed 68%, temporarily used as a pet shelter.

Freetown: Decertified

Hubbardston: Decertified

Newton: 4 Branches closed, $89k cut from payroll.

Norton: Decertified

Pittsfield: $55k cut from budget

Springfield: 4 employees laid off

Wareham: Decertified

Winthrop: Risking Closure

I know there are plenty of other stories out there, so please share them if you have them.


March 12, 2009

So according to an article in this morning’s Globe, Mass. is looking at as much as an additional billion dollar shortfall for the remainder of THIS fiscal year.

Not good.  Not good at all.

Legislative Breakfast

March 6, 2009

Today my library hosted one of a number of statewide legislative breakfasts, this one was very well attended both by concerned members of the library community and by members of the state’s Berkshires delegation.  It was informative, it was a wonderful experience, it was depressing as hell.  The state of the state is clearly awful.  

Two of my favorite people in the library community had to speak of our current hardships.  Janet Schraeder from C/WMars told the story of the Fitchburg library, one of my favorite cautionary tales.  A library that suffered an over 60% budget cut, and which was briefly reduced to serving as a pet shelter.  And Jan Resnick from my consortia, WMRLS, used the opportunity to announce their first (and hopefully [but unlikely] only) round of layoffs.

Afterwards the legislators themselves spoke, quite frankly of the state’s current economic climate.  These are not good times.  We’re looking at record deficits, some cuts have to be made and there is not any fat left to trim.  Libraries are likely going to be in a lot of pain in the next year, but everyone else will be too.