|North Adams Library Trustees Have Funding Concerns|
|By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff|
12:41AM / Tuesday, March 19, 2019
|The library trustees are asking the mayor to attend their next meeting to discuss the budget. |
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The library trustees will invite the mayor to a future meeting to discuss the fragile state of the library's budget that if not increased in coming years, will lead to decertification.
Library Director Mindy Hackner told the trustees Wednesday that she recently attended budget meetings with Mayor Thomas Bernard and is still receiving pushback from the city in meeting Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners funding standards.
"The city has always argued with me that the commissioners are being arbitrary in their requests for municipal appropriation and they don't like being told they need to be funding their library at this level," Hackner said. "This was my last charge and I told them this is not a request this is a requirement if you want to be certified."
State-certified libraries not only receive state aid but access to services such as the C/W MARS interlibrary loan. Without certification, the North Adams Public Library would stand alone.
One of the requirements of certification is a municipal contribution that Hackner said would roughly come out to 1 percent of the city's total budget. She said this is to make sure municipalities do not disproportionally cut their library's budget.
Hackner said the proposed budget would have to increase nearly 30 percent to hit this.
Libraries can apply for waivers if they can prove that their budget has not been cut disproportionally. Hackner said the city has been successful in receiving these waivers over the years.
"They have given us a waiver every year because they see that the city is making an honest earnest attempt to increase our budget," she said. "The city is facing explosive health-care costs and other massive unexpected expenses all over the board."
But this is about to come to an end and new regulations give libraries five years to hit the funding levels. North Adams has four more years.
Hackner said North Adams is not alone but is in the minority. She said the library is one of 14 that also have to apply for a waiver.
"Back when the financial crisis hit there was something like 120 — everyone was asking for a waiver because the bottom fell out of the bucket," Hackner said. "But since then most municipalities have been able to pull it out and get it to where it is supposed to be."
The Adams Free Library is in the same position.
If decertified, the library will stay decertified for three years but its funding level goal would be reset.
Hackner said these rules were implemented in the 1980s and the baselines are outdated.
"When that was implemented, North Adams probably had 18,000 residents now we are down to 12,000," she said. "Things have changed in this city, and we are not in the same place we were in 1980. The city does not have the money."
Hackner said she told Bernard this and said he could petition the MBLC.
"If he really thinks this is unfair, and it seems to be, he needs to make the appeal," Hackner said. "I can't — maybe you guys can but someone needs to get the ear of the commissioners."
The trustees agreed that they would invite Bernard to their April meeting
Hackner, who plans to retire this year, said she is worried about an incoming librarian having to deal with the funding issues she has dealt with over the years.
"I have bumped up against this for five years," she said "I am frustrated and I am worried."