The Fairhaven Library will stay open. The reason is many people informed library and City officials that they wanted the library to stay open. Over 40 people attended the Board of Trustees meeting this afternoon and a show of hands revealed almost all were there to support the Fairhaven library. One can surmise many could not attend during work hours.
Last week the five-member Board agreed they would vote to close the Fairhaven library at today's meeting. However, today while they discussed closing it, all were very shy of saying they were for closing it. They had changed their minds from last week, but they did not admit it. The Board dragged out the meeting for over two hours and finally voted to cut other programs.
Even Jay Gordon did not suggest closing it. Jay had obviously been given, and had taken, his marching orders. Last week Jay said very clearly he would vote to close Fairhaven library. Tonight, when the vote was taken, he did not move his lips. He did not vote. After the meeting I asked him how he voted, he said, "I'm not going to tell you." A minute later, the library secretary went up to him and asked how he wanted his vote recorded, and he told her it was a "yes" to go along with the other three. Jay was very angry - apparently at me.
Marilyn Master very weakly said "aye" to the question of abstentions from Edelstein, the chair. I asked her afterward if she had indeed abstained and she reluctantly admitted she had. She gave no reason.
The board clearly reversed itself from last week. Even the Library Director's handout with a list of possible items to cut was adjusted from last week, but not explained as such. The recommended cuts were green-colored text. Last week's handout had Fairhaven in green. Today's had it in black and, lo, wonder of wonders - the savings to result from closing Fairhaven has shrunk from $99,000 down to $80,000. So, closing Fairhaven would no longer save that much. And was no longer recommended. It all worked out so conveniently.
Make no mistake. The Fairhaven library would have been closed had not many people strongly objected. The chair, David Edelstein, never once suggested Fairhaven was not up for consideration. No Trustee did. The board spent over an hour with lectures and explanations to the audience about budgets and the angst they endure. There was even a power point presentation. It was as if last week's meeting never took place, as if they never spent an hour and a half reaching agreement on what to cut - which then included Fairhaven. It was a show for our benefit. Edelstein casually asked one board member to suggest what she would cut and, amazingly, the items she listed turned out to be exactly what they voted for a half hour later, after much discussion. Just so convenient. Probably well prepared. Jay Gordon was not asked for his list. Marilyn did not list all of hers.
Yes, this is tending toward "inside baseball." This is how public decisions are made - not in open public discussion, but before hand.
Herald reporter Sam Taylor was there, replacing Kie Relyea who covered last week's meeting. Her story of last Saturday was overwritten by Sam. Sam "reported" that people were in a panic over the possibility that Fairhaven would close. In tomorrow's Herald, Sam will tell us that closing Fairhaven was never mentioned, instead suggesting it was never considered and that I cried wolf. Sam knows the truth. Normally the Herald would not have run any article on the Library Board deliberations until after the final vote - and too late for anyone to attend and speak out. It was probably only because of the article on NwCitizen that the Herald ran the article on Saturday trying to debunk it.
Our Fairhaven Library is again temporarily "safe" after this 8th attempt since 1992 to close it. It is sad we citizens have to turn out to a long public meeting just to save something that should never be at risk. It is sad our daily newspaper is so irresponsible. The community value of the Fairhaven library is huge and I hope to write about that value this summer. We deserve better from our library leadership. But the problem extends much higher. The question of whether branch or central libraries will best serve our city's future deserves careful examination, not political gamesmanship.
A closing tidbit. A bit of progress. The board of Trustees sat at a table facing the audience, and spoke up. It was a nice change from their past practice of sitting in a circle around a table talking quietly to each other with their backs to the audience.