Select Board Urged to Increase Library Funds

LONGMEADOW, MA – The Richard Salter Storrs Library Board of Trustees recently urged the Select Board to consider increasing the library’s funding.

In a letter to the Select Board dated June 28, 2018, Mary Rogeness, president of the Board of Trustees, indicated recent and current appropriations do not meet the Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR). As stipulated by Massachusetts General Law, meeting the MAR qualifies municipal libraries for state aid funding. Since 2009, however, Storrs Library has operated by requesting waivers from the state in order to receive that funding. Storrs Library is slated for nearly $20,000 in state aid for fiscal year 2019.

In future years, the ability to receive waivers will begin to diminish.

“The Storrs Library values the great working relationship that exists between the library and the town. As trustees, we accepted reductions in library funding that were consistent with those shared by other town departments during the recent recession,” Rogeness wrote, “Now, however, the state will require that full funding be restored.”

The minimum allocation in order to reach the MAR threshold is an estimated $757,151.

Rogeness said waivers were commonplace a decade ago during the recession that caused significant financial burdens on cities and towns across the commonwealth, but now Longmeadow’s is one of just 351 libraries statewide operating under a waiver.

Starting in FY20, however, the state plans to “escalate” its efforts to have towns come into compliance.

“The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners will require that the town financial directors and the library director devise a five-year plan to meet the MAR obligation and will hold them accountable for making progress toward that goal,” Rogeness explained.

If the prescribed milestones are not met, it would become more difficult for the library to receive a waiver, “putting state aid funds and associated patron benefits at risk,” she added.

While meeting MAR requirements would mean no more need for waivers, it could also lead to additional benefits for the library. Rogeness said the Board of Trustees “contribute significant funds” to meet state aid regulations that require at least 15 percent of the budget go toward the purchase of books and circulating materials, which amounted to $45,000 in fiscal year 2018.

An increase in funding would allow the library to utilize that money for technology and infrastructure improvements, while also addressing needs and concerns brought to light by a recent survey of town residents.

– By Chris Maza