Monday, September 24, 2007

Does the State Not Care About Struggling Towns?

That's the only thing I can come up with after reading this article.

The Saugus Public Library is ineligible to receive grants from the state Board of Library Commissioners when the panel starts doling out money for this year. The library's temporary closing in June, due to severe budget problems, stripped the library of its state certification, a key requirement for eligibility. A library must be open a minimum of 50.4 hours per week to qualify. Although Saugus has met that requirement since Labor Day, the state considers operating hours for the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Okay, so here's some basic facts:

  • Saugus was in the red for 5.2 million this year, yet managed to keep the library open 50.4 hours a week at this point - a major feat in and of itself.
  • DiMasi blocked every attempt Deval Patrick made that would help Saugus, such as a local options meals tax for the dozens of lucrative restaurants in the town (it would mean millions for Saugus).
  • Residents are acting as volunteer Janitors in the library, because they can't staff real ones.
  • The state just rejected helping to keep that library afloat, by refusing to give it any grants.

How bad are things for the children of Saugus, who need a strong library system? With no accreditation, Saugus residents can't borrow books from other nearby libraries using the North Shore book-swap program. Melrose is 'helping' Saugus by offering memberships to their library for $200 per family, or $150 per person. So much for the idea that public libraries were, you know, public. Now they're good fundraising tools!

The only community that's offered Saugus residents free access to their library is the city of Lynn, but Saugus residents have to drive all the way to Downtown Lynn to get there. Few have taken that option. Something has to be done - and Saugus children can't wait for the solution to come from the town. Quite frankly, the town's too busy trying to figure out how to pay for employee health care. But that's not helping the town educate its populace, only direct action by the state to aid it in more ways will.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, how old is teh Saugus Library? In Bridgewater, serveral years ago they were given a $200,000 grant, contingent on their library being open for the next twenty years. Now that they're ging to have to shut down the library, it's very likely the state will demand that money back, and if Saugus has accepted any state grant contingency funds they could take yet another hit.

Peter Porcupine said...

Ryan - the library in my town was ineligible for grants from 1987 to 1999 because they could not afford to hire a MLS (Master of Library Science). In addition to time open, it's a requirement that a library professional be employed by the system. We were able to keep the library open with volunteers and part time town employees. Has Saugus tried this?

Ryan Adams said...

That's what they're doing right now. They were keeping it open for fewer hours, as well, but to get the state aid they needed, the leader of their library decided to keep it open for the 50.4 hours. However, because they shut down briefly in the summer, they became ineligible anyway. Now, if they keep up at the pace they're going now, they'll run out of funds in a matter of months. It's a pretty bad situation, made a whole lot worse by the dirth of communities willing to help Saugus out and allow them access to their libraries.

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