SOUTHAMPTON – Edwards Public Library begins the New Year with extended hours.
The library is now open 38 hours a week after voters unanimously approved an article at the Southampton city special meeting in December to transfer $ 9,897 from the city’s retirement account to fund the accounts of salary, utilities and maintenance. Adopting the article means the library meets all the requirements for certification and can extend its hours of operation, according to library director Barbara Goldin.
“We are so happy,” Goldin said. “We are very grateful for the support of our Southampton residents. ”
Like many departments in Southampton, the library has had to tighten its belts in recent years. After voters rejected a $ 718,467 budget override from Proposition 2½ in June, the library reverted to 29 hours a week and cut its four alternate positions. The defeat of the waiver also meant that the library failed to meet the certification standards of the state aid program for public libraries for the next fiscal year and had to apply for a waiver for the second year in a row.
In 2014, Goldin noted that the library had stopped paying for landscaping around the building and had started relying on volunteers to help with outdoor household chores, according to a previous Gazette report.
In order to receive funds from the State Assistance to Public Libraries program, a municipality and its library must be certified by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners as meeting legal and regulatory requirements, said Celeste Bruno, spokesperson for the MBLC. Among those requirements is a minimum annual budget, with Southampton not meeting the state threshold of $ 9,897 for fiscal year 2022.
Goldin said that while she appreciates the MBLC’s approval of past waivers, relying on waivers to maintain services is not a sustainable approach.
If a library loses its certification, its clients can no longer use interlibrary loan services and can no longer use library resources in other communities. The library would also not be allowed to apply for state or federal grants and would lose access to state financial aid, which stood at around $ 10,522 last year. Goldin compared the loss of certification to avoidance.
While libraries can work to achieve recertification, the road back can take up to five years based on an annual plan defined by the MBLC.
While Southampton won’t need a waiver this time around, there are a total of 28 waiver requests that have been submitted in the state, according to Bruno. Nominations will be voted on in February. Among those seeking waivers in western Massachusetts are Adams, Ashfield, Greenfield, North Adams, Palmer, Ware, Wales, West Springfield and Windsor.
In addition to the minimum funding requirement, a municipality and its library must also meet the minimum standards for free public library service, which includes being open a minimum number of hours per week and a certain amount of service. money spent on library materials, which is again determined by a formula set by the state. For a municipality the size of Southampton with a population of 6,224 – according to the 2020 census – the Edwards Public Library is expected to be open at least 25 hours a week, which includes a few hours in the evenings.
The MBLC adapted state aid requirements twice during the pandemic. A vote will be taken after press time on whether to suspend the opening hours requirement.
Youth librarian Johanna Rodriguez Douglass said one of the many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and budget cuts has been the way the library has reviewed its programming and attempted to maintain reading programs in person and in line.
“You can imagine that providing two different types of service to the public was a challenge. This is true for every library, but with little money coming into the library in the form of donations and with our limited hours, the Edwards Library has been hit harder than most, ”said Douglass. “I have made more efforts to get more for my money with my programming… I have also relied on the goodwill of talented people who live in our community and who accept remuneration for their work. This includes writers, musicians, magicians and teachers.
Douglass also noted that she has entered into some money-saving collaborations, including working with the Hampden Hampshire Conservation District, as well as many volunteers.
“We’ve always thought about how we spend money, and the past two years have required an even more frugal approach,” she said. “We look forward to being available to serve more people with our extended hours. When people come to the library we want them to feel safe, but in order for the public to be enthusiastic about coming to the library we need quality materials and interesting programs. In fact, I’m excited for 2022 and hope we can do a lot more! ”
The Edwards Public Library is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 am to 4 pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm; and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.