Cuts to Library Budget Put Certification in Jeopardy
Library must rely on state waivers to retain certification.
Last fall, Library Director Diane Giarrusso and other department heads were asked to craft goals and objectives for Fiscal Year 2012. Last month, she put the finishing touches on a budget for FY 2012.
The two don't mesh.
“We were asked (by Town Manager Richard Montuori) to craft a budget that was level-funded in staffing, and a 10 percent cut in other areas,” said Giarrusso. “We needed to look at our budgets a few more times to see if there were places to cut or places that we could absorb less funding.”
The proposed budget for the next fiscal year represents a seven percent cut in library spending. Giarrusso described the budget request match-up with the goals and objectives as being “not even close.”
“Nor does it adequately fund the goals that I had for this year in September,” she said.
For the library, one major budget cut includes not filling a clerk position that was vacated by a retiring librarian.
“We’re down to a staff of 14 now, which is the lowest it’s ever been,” said Giarrusso.
Giarrusso is also afraid that limited staff will require desks at the library to go unmanned, or, worst-case scenario, the library will have to close if it doesn’t have enough staff on a particular day. The 52 hours the library is open during the week is well below the state’s standards.
Budget gaps will have the greatest impact on the services the library is able to provide the public, according to Giarrusso.
“We won’t initiate any new services or any new programs unless we drop another one,” she said. The library simply doesn’t have the staffing to expand the programming it can offer.
Other significant cuts include a reduction in funds set aside for magazines, books, and other media, a development that Giarrusso finds “discouraging”.
The proposed $30,000 reduction in the materials budget is something Noelle Boc, the children’s librarian at the Tewksbury Public Library, believes will negatively affect the patrons of the library.
“The reduction in the library's FY12 materials budget severely impacts our ability to provide materials that support the curriculum in our schools,” she said.
Even though the library tries to carry materials that reflect what students are studying in school, such as books on the current social studies topics, or required reading books for English, they will be unable to do this in the future.
“We try our best to support the needs of students, but cuts to our budget will cause less to be available all around,” said Boc.
Furthermore, because the library is unable to meet the state’s requirements as to materials expenditures, they must receive a waiver from the state. To be state-certified, the library is supposed to spend 13 percent of its total budget on materials-- a figure that Giarrusso says the library is only able to meet 68 percent of.
“We are not achieving that this year. Again, for FY 2012, we will be applying for our fifth consecutive waiver of these requirements,” she said.
To be certified, the library must meet other guidelines such as municipal appropriations and number of hours open. Presently, the library is only at 80 percent of the hours they are required to be open by the state, and the town’s proposed allocation to the library is about 11 percent below certification levels.
In the past, the library has been able to receive funding from State Aid to Public Libraries to make up for some of the budget shortfalls. That safety net will be significantly smaller this year. The $28,000 the library would be eligible to receive will be cut by $14,000 because the library cannot meet minimal state guidelines. Most of the state funds received will funnel to support the book budget alone, which will be supplemented by $13,000.
Though Giarrusso appreciates state aid, it is a crutch with which she isn’t entirely comfortable.
“I’m concerned about it because the continual need for waivers just continues to erode the budget,” she said. “Eventually, we won’t be certified.”
And in terms of whether the library will continue to receive waivers to keep its certification, “the risk is greater each year,” said Giarrusso.
A loss of certification means that Tewksbury Public Library cardholders will not be able to use their cards in any libraries other than Tewksbury. The library would also be unable to borrow from local libraries in the inter-library loan process. Loss of certification is also daunting given that recertification takes several years, and the town must show increased spending allocated to the library over that time.
The good news is that the library is likely to receive a waiver from the state because many Tewksbury department budgets are in similar positions and town libraries across the state are seeing cuts.
“They’re seeing that each department is being cut a similar amount,” Giarrusso said, regarding the state board that approves the waivers.
For Giarrusso, there is a modicum amount of comfort knowing that the rest of the town is experiencing the same budget issues, and it isn’t simply a case of the library budget being cut to fund other parts of the town.
“We’re all in the same boat, which is sad, but I feel less alone,” she said. “We’ll get through this, and we’ll just have to adjust. I’m not planning on providing anything less than the best service that we can with the funding we have.”