DATE: October 02, 2009
MBLC: Maintaining Core Services a Priority
MBLC Vice Chair Katherine Dibble talks with Metrowest Regional Library System Administrator Sonny Vandermark. Regional Library Systems may be consolidated to meet the FY2011 budget cap of -16% (reduction).
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners held a budget session for public comment yesterday at the Sargent Memorial Library in Boxborough. In addition, a special Board meeting to address budget issues is scheduled for October 6 at the Board's office in Boston.
As part of the state budget process the Executive Office of Administration and Finance has given the MBLC a -16% budget cap (reduction) for FY2011. In recent years the MBLC's budget caps have varied from slight increases to a -1.5% reduction for FY2010. Other state agencies have received similar budget caps (-16%) for FY 2011.
MBLC Director Robert C. Maier presented recommendations to the Board and the audience of about 60 library supporters. "There is no aspect of this that we hope to see fulfilled," said Maier. "The bottom line is that we have no choice." He added that the MBLC became aware of the reduction shortly before the September 10, 2009 Board Meeting. The proposed plan strives to maintain core services but stressed, "These are recommendations; they are not set in stone. The Board urges members of the library community to provide input as to how it can best meet this budget cap."
The recommendations include elimination of the Regional Reference Centers, consolidation of the Regional Library Systems, a reduction in funding to the Library Networks, and a reduction in funding to the two talking book libraries. Maier added that changes of this magnitude would be unlikely to occur before the start of FY2011 (July, 1, 2010).
MBLC Chair George T. Comeau reported that a quick economic recovery is not likely and urged the library community to look for long term solutions, "Sustainability is what we need to be working towards to help us get through the next five to seven years." Commissioner Zangwill expressed concern for Regional Library System staff, "We have a lot of talented, dedicated people in the regions. What happens to them?"
Kim Charlson, Perkins School for the Blind Talking Book Library, (front row, 2nd from right) and Jim Izatt, Worcester Talking Book Library, (seated next to Ms. Charlson) spoke about the effect the budget cuts would have on the services to the blind and disabled.
Commissioner Caro asked about the possibility of using LSTA (federal) funding to offset budget shortfalls. Commissioner Quinn expressed concern that the budget cuts would passed on to local communities which are already struggling, "State support for library funding is cut and at the same time many municipalities are cutting funding to libraries. Where does that leave them?"
Several audience members testified to the importance of Regional Library Systems, "The regions provide the personal touch-they understand our needs," said Susan Hoar, Director at Taft Public Library. Anne Spraker, librarian from Masconomet Regional High School said, "Consolidate databases and delivery, but let regions do what they do best: respond to member needs." Diane Giarrusso, Director of Boxford Town Library, added, "Several years ago it was deemed that three regions were insufficient to meet the needs of the library community. That's why we developed the six region system. What has changed, except the recent economic situation?"
Ron Gagnon from NOBLE talked about the impact of budget cuts on the networks, "We are facing a 27% cut next year that's on top of a 17% cut in the present fiscal year. That's a huge gap to fill." Lynn Public Library Director Nadine Mitchell said that the library provides an economic bridge for many patrons, "We're able to do that because of the regional networks." "As funding to CWMARS goes down, our annual assessment goes up and we simply can't afford it," was a comment read by Susan SanSoucie, Montague Public Libraries.
Beth Mazin, Director of Memorial Hall Library in Andover, asked the Board to consider developing an interim plan so that libraries have time to adjust to the changes, "Whatever you need to do, please realize that libraries need time to plan for this. We need time to work with our local officials."
Commissioner Carol Caro (right) talks with SAILS Network Director Debby Conrad and NOBLE Network Director Ron Gagnon.
Not included in the recommendations are further cuts to State Aid to Public Libraries and the MBLC's administrative account. State Aid to Public Libraries has lost nearly 30% of its funding in the last two years. Any further erosion of funding jeopardizes the program. Susan SanSoucie spoke to the importance of State Aid especially for libraries in the western part of the state, "We depend on State Aid to keep our doors open. Without it many of our small libraries would be forced to close."
The current MBLC administrative account occupies 3% of the Board's overall budget. The MBLC recently lost the Deputy Director position when Nancy Rea voluntarily stepped down in September. Two other MBLC staff members will be announcing retirement and the Director of Operations is a part-time employee. "We will be down seven or eight positions, further staff reductions will impede our ability to keep programs running." said Maier.
The MBLC must submit its FY2011 on October 9, 2009. The second budget session is scheduled for Tuesday, October 6 at the agency offices, 98 North Washington Street in Boston, beginning at 10:00am. Written testimony may also be submitted to the MBLC Director at Robert.Maier@state.ma.us