March 7, 2003
Director, Communications & Public Information
Commissioners issue a response to Governor Romney's FY2004 Budget, and its impact on library services
BOSTON - The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, at their first regularly-scheduled Board Meeting following the release of Governor Mitt Romney's House 1 Budget, voted yesterday to relay three resolutions to the library community and legislature on how the budget as proposed would impact library service across the Commonwealth.
In their first statement, in response to the proposal to merge the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners into a new organizational structure headed by a new Executive Office of Education, the Commissioners said,
"A visible, strong, independent and properly funded state library agency is essential to the delivery of library services in the Commonwealth. The Board of Library Commissioners initiates and coordinates programs that link libraries for resource sharing through the development of essential infrastructure and the delivery of content that promotes equity of access to information for all residents. Library service could not continue as we know it without the programs and services of the Board."
Secondly, on a proposal to merge the Talking Book Libraries for the Blind in Watertown and Worcester with the Executive Office of Health & Human Services under a new Department for Disabilities and Community Services, the Board said,
"The Talking Book Library at the Worcester Public Library and the Talking Book Program at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown are specialized library programs for blind and physically handicapped residents of Massachusetts. As library programs that originate at the Library of Congress, we believe that these programs are most effectively administered in Massachusetts by the Board of Library Commissioners."
Finally, recognizing that many communities are undergoing increasingly difficult financial situations of their own, the Board wanted to communicate to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees its desire to address this reality, and in so doing, provide some flexibility in the requirements for State Aid to Public Libraries, while at the same time insuring that public library budgets will not be disproportionately cut in municipal budgets.
"The Board of Library Commissioners recognizes the necessity of accommodating the State Aid to Public Libraries program to the fiscal realities of FY2004. We reaffirm our commitment to minimum standards of public library service as defined in statute, and we recommend to the House and Senate that, as a first step in accommodation, the Board be permitted an additional 75 waivers of the Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) in FY2004 so that municipalities that do not disproportionately cut library funding may continue to receive State Aid, and to reduce the MAR to 100% of the previous three year average for FY2004."
"Public library administrators and trustees are reminded that this is a proposal from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to the legislature which has final say," said Robert C. Maier, Director of the Board. The MAR is set in Statute (M.G.L. 78, 19A) at 102.5% of the average of the prior three years and just 10 waivers are permitted under statute. During the fiscal crisis of the early 1990s, the MAR was also reduced and only a limited number of additional waivers were permitted. Some municipalities that would have received a waiver did not because only a limited number of waivers were available.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.