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Save the Waban Branch Library


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8/11 Currently at 246, please add your voice!

It appears the letter given to the Alderman on May 23 listing costs for the branches was less than accurate. Line items such as the salaries quoted were for full time employees - not part time, it goes on. Apparently headcount numbers were a bit "creative" as well.

At the Trustee meeting I asked the board to explain why they wanted to close the branch libraries since they account for less than 3% of the total budget and they refused to answer. Transparency is ordinarily what public organizations strive for so I suspect like their counterparts in Gulliver’s Travels, they have long ago forgotten the reason. 

  • Based upon inaccuracies in the letter to the BOA of May 20th and the 2008 Library Budget: the $300,000 cost of the 4 branches appears to be closer to $200,000 but may be as low as $100,000. A pattern of padding all figures from budgets, headcounts, and even FOL memberships, emerges. This has serious implications as these numbers are reported to State Boards and the City for funding and for statistics for Federal tracking. Mistakes include:
    • Fulltime hours for part time employees: The branches are open 15 hours a week with staff employed no more than 20 hours (.53 FTE) per branch. If salaries covered full time hours, then each of the libraries should have been open full time hours for years.   
    • Main Branch operations: The budget included costs particular to the main library, but mistakenly contributed to the branch library. (Examples include the cost of $34,000 for one hour on a Sunday at the main library, the fixed fee of the Minuteman Network, training, books, etc.)
    • Minuteman connection fees which are already paid for by the Main: The $3,400 is fixed fee, not specific to the branch libraries
    • Book Purchasing: The budget claimed a cost for books bought for each branch. It may be true each branch librarian was given opportunities to buy more books. However, these books are now being circulated by the main library. So if they are not "owned" exclusively for the branches, and used by the main, then it appears the budget should reflect their main library ownership.   
  • $5,288,274 is the total budget of the Library, $100,000 is less than 2%
  • With two raises within 5 months, new Director Nancy Perlow 's salary will be $103,476, higher than the Mayor’s $97,000. According to Mass Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) the Average pay for Directors in Massachusetts is $50-75,000
  • To fill the Assistant Director position vacated by Perlow, the library has chosen an uncertified IT person from circulation, who made apx $55,000 and will now receive $78,000 salary. According to MBLC the average starting pay of certified Asst. Director is 45,000
  • Privatizing branches and having communities pay librarian salaries could cause the NFL to lose accreditation and $180,000 in annual grants. It is a violation of the Mass Board of Library Commissioners MGL standards for patrons to have to pay for books under the "Free Library" standards.  
  • There is no practical transportation for people with disabilities to get from the villages currently served by the branches to the main library
  • 1866, Newton built its first Library. 1934 - 14 libraries. 2008 – 1 library
  • An American Library Association study found that when the economy goes down, library use goes up
  • According to Americans for Libraries Council, library constructions and renovations are on rise nationally since 2004
  • According to a study for Framingham, without the branches, Newton will have one of the lowest densities of libraries to patrons in the state
  • The American Association of Certified Appraisers states that appraisers determine whether a community has a local library when assessing property values

The Library is a major responsibility for our community and yet no one is taking responsibility. After crying "wolf" for years, this closing was obviously done in a manner to minimize public backlash. The entire episode is symptomatic of the larger problem with the direction and trustees: a lack of vision to keep pace with a changing society and changing technologies. Remember when the librarian was the research specialist? You may think Google does it all for you now but rest assured that the advances in semantic web and information technologies will make your head spin - we will still need specialists. Libraries should and can be exciting. The library of the future will be incredible and we must rise to the occasion to bring it to the next generations.

I urge you to read the following short articles:

 

 

 

The Future of Libraries Beginning the Great Transformation

Creating the Ultimate Information Experience Planning Our Next Generation Libraries

How to Make Your Library Great 14 lessons from local libraries all over the continent.

 

 

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