Monday, February 3, 2014

Library Discussion a Work-In-Progress

As you know, the provision of library services has been in the news lately – especially since Town Council and the Library Board have had a couple of joint meetings (one in December, another with representatives of the Friends of Maple Acres Library in January).

But, it really has been a work in progress for a number of months.

Some discussion started at the outset of this Council term; Council considered a motion in early-2011 for the Town to review Library operations; the initial understanding was that there wouldn’t be any Board involvement. The Library Board suggested, and Council agreed, that they work together with the Town to help to jointly streamline operations – like payroll, facility maintenance, computers, etc.

During this period, the Town continued to fund the Library services. For example, in 2010, the Town grant was $677,800 (up 2.5% from 2009); 2011 it increased by 1.4% to 687,290; 2012 to $728,387 up 6.0%; and 2013 to $746,597 up 2.5%. (The Town grant has actually increased by $252,387 (or 51%) since 2005.)

Despite best efforts in streamlining operations, the Library posted a year-end balance of negative $62,062 for 2012.

Council recognized that more effort was needed and the Town retained Performance Concepts Consulting in early-2013 to conduct a strategic facilities review of the existing Pelham Library system; this included Library usage analysis and public consultations. In late-spring, the Firm was also retained to undertake a separate Operational Review of Library services and systems for use by the Library Board.

The Library facilities review made several recommendations most notably that the Maple Acre branch become a satellite-type operation, instead of a full-service branch because of the very limited usage over the last five years. Because the Library Board recently rejected this recommendation and the future of Maple Acre is uncertain, Council held joint meetings with the Board and the community. This discussion and process continues, and we expect another joint meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the Library Board worked diligently through some staff changes in 2013 and ended with an estimated year-end deficit of $28,000. The Board requested a 2014 grant of $791,393 (up 6.0% from 2013); last week, Town Council “red-lined” (held their grant) to $752,258 (a 0.8% increase) pending joint discussions.

Because of the ongoing willingness of all parties to work together, I am optimistic that we can jointly evaluate ideas and take action soon to continue to maintain and improve Pelham’s Library services.