Ahead of this spring’s budget sessions, Haverhill City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett did her due diligence Tuesday night to petition for increased funding for what she calls the “chronically underfunded” Haverhill Public Library.
Over the last year, Barrett said 51,000 cardholders found the location a “highly used and valued” resource—a resource that risks losing certification if the city doesn’t fill a much-needed $195,000 gap.
The Library’s Board of Trustees and the City of Haverhill partner jointly to oversee the Library and over the last 11 years, Barrett said the Trustees increased their budget 41 percent, while the city boosted their contribution 0.2 percent.
“The city has to have a plan for closing the funding gap and maintaining appropriate funding going forward,” Barrett said. “I don’t know if we have that plan, but I hope we can work together with the Mayor to make that plan happen.”
Haverhill has failed to meet requirements for certification 14 times in last 16 years but received waivers, Barrett said. Once a library is de-certified, the location must be fully funded for three years and cannot participate in the consortium, or shared collection of books and resources from other local libraries.
Barrett’s plea came on the heels of a heated Council discussion of Consentino School roof repairs, with Barrett arguing that her Council peers can’t have things both ways.
“Its usage cuts all demographics but it is vitally important for those without means. We as a community say we believe in education and say we want to increase grade level reading, yet we have consistently underfunded our library: A free source of reading for children, teens, adults and seniors,” she said.
In her address to her Council peers and Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Barrett also leaned on several community members and educators to underscore the importance of the city resource, since Library Director Sarah Moser was reportedly asked not to speak by Fiorentini. After the meeting, Fiorentini told WHAV via email it is standard practice for department heads like Moser to sit out initial conversations until the primary budget hearing, which she will attend.
Diane Shaw, a Euclid Avenue neighbor and member of the Friends of the Haverhill Public Library’s Board of the Directors, called the Haverhill Public Library one of the city’s greatest assets.
“I can’t imagine living in a city without access to my library,” Shaw admitted. “I know there are fundamental needs we all have and we pay our taxes, but to me, one of those strongest needs is in the library.”
New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden, who makes his home in Bradford, was much more cutting in his critique of the budget woes. “It’s embarrassing and shameful,” he told councilors.