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Boynton and the Library

February 28, 2009

Note: This post was edited on Mar. 2 and Mar. 3, 2009.

Walpole
Town Administrator Michael Boynton proposed a few weeks ago a a
34% cut in the Walpole Public Library budget.  While hard decisions
about budget cuts certainly must be made and not all of them are easy,
Boynton’s proposal suggests he cares little about the value of the library in the community.

The proposed cuts call for laying off seven library employees; decreasing the budget for new books, DVDS, videos, and other materials from
$92,000 to $12,000; and reference and children’s services significantly
reduced.  The cuts would reduce the library to little more than a
shell, and could cause it to lose state accreditation, jeopardizing its
ability to construct a new library in the coming years and at the same
time disconnecting it from any library network, preventing Walpole
library patrons from placing requests for materials from other
libraries.

I’m
not sure when was the last time that Boynton even stepped foot in the
building at 65 Common Street.  If
he were to visit, he would very likely see what all of us library
supporters and friends already see on a regular basis: an immense
number of people using the cramped computer center; friendly and
cheerful library staff who never seem to be having a bad day (based on
the constant smile on their face); the immeasurable reference services
provided by my good friend the invaluable reference librarian; the
large group of tutors and “tutorees” who nearly every weekday afternoon
make use of the severely constricted space in the reference room and
any other place in the library that is free; and the limited handicap
accessibility in several different area of the building.  To sum it up,
the Walpole library is the only location in town where taxpayers get
their tax money paid back in the form of freely available books,
movies, magazines, and daily newspapers, superior customer service, and
decent computers with internet access, but for several years now our
town’s administration has neglected the library in budget after budget.

The library is an
essential part of the community, and it says a lot about a town when
its library is open for a few hours only a few days a week with a
limited staff.  It’s about time Mr. Boynton gets real about budget cuts and starts understanding what Walpole
residents really value.  The Walpole library already has a very small
staff, which works in a very small and outdated building.  It is
perfectly acceptable to expect that the library would have to cut a few
positions at a time when the town is in such troubling financial shape,
but it is not acceptable to demand the library give up nearly half of
their workforce, shutter the doors two days a week, and knock it out of
a library network that many library patrons depend on.

What

It
is my hope that Town Meeting will shoot down these proposed cuts and
will send Mr. Boynton a strong message that the library should not
suffer more than any other town department.  The loss of a quality
full-service library will cripple this community.  Enough is enough. 
Contact your RTMs.

On a side note, I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Jerry Romelczyk,
longtime Walpole library director, best wishes and good luck, as he has
apparently announced his retirement this year.  He has
served Walpole well, and I only wonder what will happen to the future
of the new library project with his absence.

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