Posted tagged ‘Fitchburg’

On Decertification

August 27, 2009

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).

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Fitchburg Revisited

August 7, 2008

The Worcester Telegram has an update on the fate of the Fitchburg public library, and this time it was picked up by the ALA’s weekly mailing list.  Things have not improved since the last time I checked.  They’re a month into having their hours reduced to 21 a week and neighboring libraries have gone on record saying they will deny service to Fitchburg patrons when the library’s state certification expries in January (as is standard practice in Mass.).

They are planning to begin a massive fund raising campaign shortly, and I wish them the best of luck.

The View from the Gallery

July 9, 2008

The Fitchburg public library is going through one of the toughest budget crisises in recent memory.  The city is suffering a nearly $5 million defecit this year, and the Mayor is unconvinced that the library is a core service for the city.  Thus this year’s budget negotiations may result in as much as a %75 cut to the library, and I’ve heared reports they will have to reduce their staff and their hours by as much as 2/3rds and may not be able to purchase any new materials for the next year.

And then there is the issue of state certification, which in Massachusetts requires (for a city the size of Fitchburg) certain budgetary standards and a director with an M.L.S.  Meeting these requirements opens up grant opportunities and allows you membership in the statewide library systems.  Fitchburg is not going to make the cut this year, becoming the largest community in the state unable to do so, and to judge from some members of the community they don’t mind.

I really want to be appalled by this, but I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, and judging by the post I just linked to I don’t think there are many pro library advocates in the city.  I’m also curious how much of the thinking revolves around the fact that the neighboring city of Leominster just opened up a brand new library.  I really want to see the shock in Fitchburg when patrons try to go over there to check out books and get turned away because of their uncertified status.  I’ll be keeping an eye on this whole situation.