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A Recurring Story: Towns Shutting the Book on Libraries

June 12, 2007

Saugus, MA - It's no fairy tale ending for some libraries in Massachusetts. In some towns, it's come down to either a tax increase or no library.

Saugus is one town facing this dilemma. After four years of funding cuts, the fate of the library came to an up or down vote -- they chose no library. Library director Mary Rose Quinn shut the doors two weeks ago, and the town also lost its borrowing privileges from other area libraries. She says most nearby libraries in their former network are struggling with their own problems, and are not obligated to serve Saugus residents.

“It would be as if I was paying a water bill and decided I didn't want to pay my water bill anymore. If I went to my neighbor and said, ‘I don't want to pay my water bill this year, would you mind if I used your water, and you paid, because I don't want to?.”

Quinn says students who stopped by every day to finish homework now have to find somewhere else to go, and they won't have free books available for their summer reading programs. She still hopes they can find the resources to keep the library open for limited hours in the future.

In Randolph, faced with a similar situation, the library story ended differently. The town gathered about 4,000 signatures, and at a town meeting voted to keep the library open. But Director Charles Michaud says it's still not the funding he'd like.

“We'll be decertified for the coming year because we weren't open the required number of hours last year, yet from what I've seen we're the only success story in Eastern Massachusetts this spring.”

The library community is asking for the 2008 state budget to include increases in library funding.

Kevin Clay/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MA