The selectboard is moving toward signing a new warrant for the library budget which, if approved, will reopen the library, but patrons say its closure “leaves a huge hole in the community.”
| Emily Bader, Lakes Region Weekly |
NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectboard members voted Monday to begin the process of bringing an updated library budget before voters.
The library has been closed since Sept. 16, a day after the majority of voters rejected the library budget for the second time. Supporters of the library said they rejected the budget in protest of the reduction of hours for the library director and assistant librarian.
Regardless of the reason behind the “no” vote, Town Manager Brenda Fox-Howard said last month that without voter approval the town was forced to close the library and lay off its two employees.
But on Monday, the selectboard voted to approve new numbers from Fox-Howard that would reinstate both positions at 36 hours each with benefits.
“If you go beyond the 36/36 (hours each), it will cause a lot of other problems budgetarily … it’s in line with all of the other positions that had been reduced,” Fox-Howard said. The Planning, Recreation and Public Works departments all experienced cuts this budget cycle.
To reinstate the library director at 40 hours and the assistant librarian at 36 hours might force a supplemental tax bill, Fox-Howard said, but 36 hours each would not.
While the library remains closed, some patrons, especially those with young children, have said they’re missing out on key resources.
“The library offered a lot of services to us that were all free to us, so obviously (the library’s closure) leaves a huge hole for the community,” Elizabeth Klotzle said.
Both Klotzle and Hannah Blackburn said that the library was one of the first places where they met other families and made friends when they moved into town.
“We spent hours in the library, we would play with any kids that came in. An older kid taught my kid how to play chess there. We were there every week, if not more, checking out books,” Blackburn said.
Both said librarians Suzan Hawkins and Carla McAllister are the driving force behind the library and their children’s positive experiences, from teaching them how to make book requests to leading story time.
Since the New Gloucester library closed, they’ve been going to the Gray Public Library, but it’s not the same.
“We don’t know it as well. We’re doing curbside so it’s more difficult to know (their catalog),” Klotzle said.
She also said that her kids lost that connection with an adult that’s outside of their home or school.
“My kids really enjoy Sue and Carla, so it’s also nice to have the curbside pickup to have another adult to talk to, to chat about new books.”
The $102,033 budget must now go before the Budget Committee before the selectboard can sign a warrant and call an election.
With absentee ballot requirements, there may not be an election until late November or early December at the earliest.