Library turns to PR campaign amid looming state cutsBy Mary Ann Price
A delivery truck arrives every business day at the Canton Public Library with materials that patrons have requested but that the library does not have in its collections.
“Not every library can have all of the things that any one person needs,” Director Mark Lague said.
The Canton library is a member of the Old Colony Library Network (OCLN) and partners with academic libraries at Massasoit Community College, Quincy College, and Eastern Nazarene College to provide print, visual, and audio materials for people who request them.
However, potential cuts to the state budget mean that the driver who regularly transports several large plastic bins of books, periodicals, and films to the Canton library may soon follow a schedule that will eliminate one delivery each week. Patrons will still receive their materials, but later than they anticipated. The cutbacks are part of what Lague calls the “drip, drip, drip of erosion” of library services.
In an effort to combat the cuts to delivery services, the Canton library community is participating in Miles to Reach You, a campaign to raise awareness among library users across the state about the library services that are being threatened. Lague explained that the latest reduction is part of a consistent decrease in the level of state funding for library services that has taken place over a period of several years.
“There are three that affect libraries such as us directly,” he said.
The first is state aid. Since 2009, the amount of state aid to public libraries has decreased by about 10 percent. “It’s had some fluctuation, but the trend has been down,” Lague said.
The second area concerns funds for library technology and resources that go directly to the cost of telecommunications in libraries. The money is used to provide Internet connections, which allow patrons to access the collections online.
The regional library system comprises the third area of funding. Lague said that the regional libraries may consist of an office, rather than a building, and a staff of consultants who provide workshops and training to local librarians. It also includes the delivery system, the costs of which have risen due to new labor laws regarding overtime and other costs.
“It’s a statewide program, but within each area, with its own delivery system but funded through the state. That’s being stressed,” Lague said, when speaking of line items in the state budget that may be cut. “It’s one of the things we rely on. These regional libraries working together, that’s made us more far-reaching than any individual library can be.”
On average, Canton library patrons request about 12 percent of materials from other libraries. “And that’s just print material,” Lague said.
There are two parts to the Miles to Reach You initiative. Patrons who have requested an item from another library may find a bookmark inside the book that explains that a librarian in a library elsewhere in the state took the book off a shelf and had it sent to a regional sorting facility for delivery to Canton — for less than the cost of a postage stamp. More than 426,342 items were delivered to patrons across the state in fiscal year 2016. Patrons are then asked to take a photo of themselves with the book and post it with the hashtag #milestogo on the social media platform of their choice.
People are also asked to go to www.ocln.org/engage. Patrons can send a pre-printed message, which can be changed and customized, to their state legislator. The message asks for support for library funding and all the budget lines for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
Lague hopes that people will see the importance of the Miles to Reach You campaign. “It doesn’t seem like much,” he said. “It’s also an incremental loss. Thousands and thousands of books not being used by people.” The campaign began January 17 and ends February 17.
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