From: Deb Blanchard
To: Athol Daily News
Sent: Monday, May 24, 2010 3:46 PM
Subject: Letter to the editor
Dear Letter to the Editor
At a couple of recent events, several people approached me knowing that I am the director of the Athol Public Library and commented that if the override does not pass in June, that I would be seeing a lot more of them as they would now be using the Athol Library. Unfortunately while they would be welcome to come into the library, they would not be able to check anything out or utilize any services such as interlibrary loan. Perhaps a bit of historic background would help explain why this is so and to help people understand the impact should the Wheeler Library close.
In Massachusetts as communities were formed, services such as police, fire, public works and libraries were instituted through taxation of its citizens. In general, those services were for the use of the residents of that town only. Libraries were no exception until the State Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) was formed under MGL Chapter 78 and began a wonderful tradition of sharing resources between libraries who met the standards established by the MBLC. Meeting the minimum requirements allowed a library to be certified and privileges of this membership included receiving state grants, being part of the new interlibrary loan system and participating in training workshops. In 1954, the Athol Trustees accepted the Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement that allowed residents of Athol, a certified library, to use their Athol card at any other certified library in Massachusetts and enabled other towns’ residents to use Athol. It was a wonderful arrangement that saved towns money by not duplicating purchases and gave residents a convenient and flexible way to use libraries perhaps where they worked instead of where they lived.
This system has worked so beautifully over time that people have to come believe that it is their right to be a member of any library in the Commonwealth. When all libraries are funded properly and meet the certification standards, everyone enjoys the benefits. The problem comes when people begin to believe that they can cease funding their libraries and instead utilize neighboring libraries funded through other’s taxpayer dollars. This situation negates the reciprocal borrowing agreement because how can Athol residents use another library that is closed?
This is not a case of one library deciding to refuse service to another to be mean; it is a case of one town choosing not honor the agreement to share resources. I can’t imagine that a town would agree to share police, fire or public works services and then decide to eliminate those services and expect the neighboring towns to just take over plowing their streets or policing their town without compensation. Doing that would stretch or make unavailable the resources to the taxpayers funding those services in their own town. It is no different for the library.
The bottom line is that if the taxpayers of Orange decide to not fund their library and step away from the reciprocal borrowing agreement and certification (closing a library is an automatic decertification), the Trustees of the Athol Public Library will have no choice but to follow their policy and deny borrowing privileges to any Orange resident.
We currently have about 2,300 Orange residents registered at the Athol Library who borrowed approximately 14,658 items last year. They would no longer be able to borrow and we could not accept new users. This would make all us, staff and patrons alike, very unhappy. The current system of sharing resources is the best bang for your taxpayer buck you’ll ever see for the small amount of the total town budget that the library is.
Debra Blanchard, Director Athol Public Library