Thursday, January 30, 2014

Committee recommends against combining Winchester libraries

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff

WINCHESTER — A town committee recommends Winchester’s two public libraries remain open and independent of each other for the foreseeable future.
But the Conant and Thayer public libraries should seek to cooperate and collaborate more, committee members told the Winchester selectmen Wednesday night.
The seven-member committee, which was tasked with studying consolidation of the two libraries, was formed after a warrant article passed by voters in March 2013. The selectmen appointed the members.
In its report, the group said consolidation would be “premature and imprudent,” especially with the Thayer Public Library still growing.
“Attempting to consolidate, or otherwise change the governance of the libraries, would be disruptive and inhibit the revitalization of the Thayer Public Library,” the report states.
In addition, any plan to close the Conant Public Library, which is the larger of the two buildings, would be “foolhardy and likely to be very unpopular with the public,” according to the report.
The Conant library is in a multiple-story building on Main Street in Winchester, while the Thayer library is in what was once a private house in the village of Ashuelot. The property was donated to the town by Julia B. Thayer roughly 100 years ago to be used forever as a public library. In recent years, efforts have been underway to revitalize it.
“We’re trying to bring it up to be something for the community,” Harriet Charland, a member of the Thayer Public Library Board of Trustees and the library consolidation committee, said Wednesday.
Acting librarian Jennifer Bellan said as the library slowly comes back, its value to the community is increasing, and it’s becoming a safe place for children in the community.
Besides effecting the growth of the Thayer Public Library, the report outlined the legal, logistical and political challenges of combining the two libraries.
It’s not clear if Conant and Thayer officials share the same vision and goals, or whether one library’s mission would be compatible with the other, according to the report.
“Any change in the structure of the governance of the libraries would require support of both Boards of Trustees,” the report states. “There is very little support on either board for consolidation or reconsideration of governance.”
Charland and committee chairman Barry Montgomery both told selectmen that as much as some might view it as a financial burden having two libraries in a town of roughly 4,000 people, from an education and growth perspective, it’s an asset.
“A library is an attractive thing for residential development in the area,” Montgomery said.
The area that could handle the most real estate growth in town is Ashuelot, he said.
Charland said literacy is extremely important, and in a community that U.S. Census statistics say is struggling, having two libraries is valuable in making sure children know how to read.
Selectmen in attendance Wednesday spoke in favor of keeping both libraries open. A final vote on the issue will come later.


Am I right or not? said...

What a bunch of hooey! The Town CANNOT even support ONE library. Read the last town report. Town budget for Conant Library is $60k. Expenses to run Conant Library are 90k.
Having a "library" in Ashuelot will support growth and development? Are you kidding me? People are suddenly going to start buying and developing properties because of that library? Hooey!
How much development is Conant Library creating?
Again, look at last town report.
DVD's accounted for 1/3 of all loans. This year I would not be surprised if DVD loans outpaced the 2 book categories.
Wake up - there is no reason for the Thayer "Library" to be another town expense - it is a quaint holdover from a time long past.
Winchester could have 15 libraries - nobody is moving here because it is Winchester.
Students graduate from the school totally lacking in basic skills. Dumb teenage drop out parents = dumb kids.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in town for 42 years and I cant remember the library in Ashuelot needing or asking for taxpayer money at all in the past. Why did they feel a need to ask for $18,000 of our tax money this year, what happened? How is it they were able to be open for all those other years without Tax payer support? I feel we are missing something here and the whole story is not being told.
I remember the warrant on last years ballot about combining the 2 library's how is it that this group that was formed to study this option tried to turn it into closing the Conant library? that was never the question.

Anonymous said...

We can have someone in the Library in Ashuelot with no one around, but cant have the town clerks office open with the selectmen's meeting in session? Maybe this will give the PD some more detail work.