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Cuts to Library Budget Put Certification in Jeopardy

Library must rely on state waivers to retain certification.

Last fall, 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 ) 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.”

Christian Panasuk February 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM
Thanks to the great staff of creative and hard-working librarians in Tewksbury! There are many residents and families who LOVE this library, the staff, and everything they do to bring this valuable service to our community. This library department has been significantly cut in each of the most recent years in the budget process. On a day to day basis, they continue to seek out alternative funding, and host great programming on the scant resources they have. The reduced funding of the library's small budget, will continue to have a challenging effect over the long term in recovering years. The town will pay the price, as the there will continue to be little descrectionary revenue to replace what has been taken away this year and in the past. It's a tremendous shame and rather short sighted, since the public library offers the best return on a tax payer's dollar. It's a pre-paid resource costing the town less than 1% (!) of the overall budget, serving ALL residents for life-long learning and cultural resources. There is nothing left to cut in this budget, and the director and staff make it seem like "business as usual," since they do so much with so little. It's truly a shame to have all our great resources locked up in that beautiful building, "closed" because we choose not to fund the staff hours to have the library accessbile more than 52 hours per week.
Christian Panasuk February 19, 2011 at 12:55 PM
If you LOVE the library, and value this resource, here are some ideas of how you can make a difference, & help: >> Join the FRIENDS of the TPL. February is "Love Your Library Month." >>Volunteer -- Seek out info at the Library, or here on the Patch, to volunteer to help. >>"Adopt a Book" is the FRIENDS fundraising drive to help support new materials. >>Donate books from your collection that are in great shape & relatively new! >>Shop at the Friendly Little Bookshop on Weds 4:30pm-7:30pm, or Sats 10a-1pm, to pick up great book and media bargains that raise money to support library cultural programs for children, teens, and adults.
Robert L Homeyer February 19, 2011 at 01:56 PM
This is Bob Homeyer. I am a Library Trustee and local business owner. I have only been on the Board a little over 6 months and will be on the ballot in April (unopposed). I bring a business perspective to the Board but it was a great Board already and Diane has a great team running the Library. I have been extremely impressed and our library is a wonderful place servicing around 500 patrons PER DAY. The budget in 2008 was roughly $ 1.1 million. The new budget is roughly $ 900,000. The delta to run the place correctly is about $200,000. That my friends amounts to about 50 cents per month per Tewksbury resident. I, for one, lose that much change per month normally to my car seat. Come visit the library; check out the resources; see how well is is managed; see what a wonderful place it is; get involved; and let's figure out how we can come up with the dough. The economy is tough for everyone but this is one resource that is worth the money and too valuable to lose. Thanks.
Lee Anne Petherbridge February 19, 2011 at 03:29 PM
The library is wonderful, and Chris it is great to see someone put out ideas on how they can help instead of the usual tact to just complain. The director seems to understand, and I think we can all help to make the pinch feel less - I know I donate all the change from my late fees - if I owe 2.50, I give them 3.00 - they tend to give the money to the pantry - I'd like to see them give it to themselves. (I donate on my own to the Pantry). The .50 cents per resident Bob - I think they should put a collection bucket at the desk now! I am sure those who use the facility would donate a $1.00 to the cause. Could you suggest as a trustee!
Robert L Homeyer February 19, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Lee Anne - Thanks so much. We will be looking at all options in the upcoming meetings I am sure. There are lots of rules, regulations, and laws on what can happen and what can not happen. I am still a little fuzzy on all of it. My reaction lately has been "you have got to be kidding me...this is crazy" and so goes my first foray into government service. I am still learning but as a businessman my thinking is it is short money we just need a plan. My second grade teacher called my mother in for a chat when I was quite young. The nun told her "Robert does not work well in groups". It is still the case...lol. All thoughts and recommendations will be greatly appreciated. I just want people to know the numbers. We have A LOT of very smart and resourceful people in this town. The problems at hand are certainly not insurmountable if all put our heads together. Thanks
Jackie Stone February 19, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Do you use the computers upstairs in the library? Perhaps you don’t have internet access at home? Imagine if there was no one at the upstairs reference desk to help you. If there is no adequately trained librarian available, guess what? The full top floor of the library, all 18,000 square feet of it and all of those computers, could be closed! Yep, perhaps just for an afternoon or a day, but if it is when you were counting on that resource, well too bad. The library budget has been cut. Do your children use the library for reading, fun, homework, or maybe safe computer access? If there is no qualified Children’s Librarian or other staff member able to cover the children’s wing for a day, or after school someday, well guess what? The Children’s Wing of our library could be closed when you were counting on it. The library budget has been cut to the bone. With only 14 staff members the library cuts are so deep that the library appears to be teetering on the brink - for our citizens of all ages. Perhaps with the addition of just one more staff member, to meet that magic 15 staff level, we can put a Band-Aid on the wound. At least until the economy improves and the medics arrive.

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