By guest writer Marilyn Olsen.
Contrary to the assertion by the Rolling Stones in 1969, apparently you can always get what you want. If you’re the Bellingham Library Board that is. In yesterday’s special meeting to discuss the anticipated $372,441 cut to the library’s 2011 budget, the library’s director, Pam Kiesner presented a grim sounding list of what looked like some difficult choices facing the library including reducing the materials budget, reducing technical services, reducing teen programming, reducing computer hardware, closing the Barkley branch, eliminating outreach services, reducing the fund to hire temporary librarians, cutting COLA raises for the library’s director and assistant director and implementing furloughs for library staff. Various members of the library staff were on hand to explain just how dire these cuts would be.
A quick perusal through the rest of the list of potential cuts, however, clearly shows that for the board the choices really weren’t that difficult at all: simply shift current employees around to other jobs, don’t fill currently vacant positions and close the Fairhaven Library. Then, the only other cut necessary to achieve the mandated reduction would be to eliminate outreach services, which is primarily delivery of books to area nursing homes and home-bound patrons. As far as this patron can tell, the total resulting cut to the library staff might then be one person – the one that currently does the outreach services, although it is unclear if that person could also be moved somewhere else on the staff.
This is certainly not the first time the neck of the Fairhaven Library has been on the proverbial chopping block. So far, over the years determined groups of loyal Fairhaven Library patrons have been able to stop the ax in mid-air and keep the doors open to the institution that has served this city for more than 105 years.
After several hours of discussion, yesterday the library board just couldn’t seem to decide what to do for sure and tabled the motion until its next board meeting June 15. This is, of course, just three days before the proposal for how to achieve the necessary budget cuts goes to the mayor, who will make the final decision. Not much time for the folks who have fought for the Fairhaven Library for lo these many years to do much in its defense.
This time the ax may indeed fall and the gift of the land to the city by the Larrabee family for the perpetual use of a free public library and the historic building funded by Andrew Carnegie will become just the city’s latest real estate foreclosure.
Perhaps those who have tried so hard in the past to close the Fairhaven Library will prove the Rolling Stones wrong. Apparently, if you wait long enough, you CAN always get what you want.