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South Hadley, Gaylord libraries bring merger plan to Town Meeting

  • Gaylord Library GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley Public Library —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@ecutts_HG
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

SOUTH HADLEY – A proposed integration of the Gaylord Memorial Library and the South Hadley Public Library could bring better library services to the town, according to supporters.

Town Meeting Members will decide whether the two libraries will merge at a special town meeting on Jan. 11. Last on the ballot, Article 22 asks “to see if the Town will vote to endorse the Gaylord Library Memorandum of Understanding and authorize the Town Moderator to sign on behalf of the Town Meeting, or take any other action relative thereto.”

The Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, outlines how the two libraries will operate.

“I think it would be a positive thing for the town, definitely,” Christine Quigley, Gaylord library director.

The partnership, Quigley said, would improve services at Gaylord and provide more and easier access to programming and information.

It would also help to ensure Gaylord stayed open and available to the people of South Hadley, according to Quigley.

“It would be additional town support – because the Gaylord endowment isn’t ample enough to continue to run the library for years and years as we would want,” she said. “The endowment just isn’t big enough.”

As part of the agreement, the South Hadley Public Library Director would oversee and direct all day to day activities at the Gaylord Memorial Library and has the right to change programming, adjust hours, staffing levels and schedules.

The Gaylord trustees would retain ownership of the building and its inventory and maintenance of the building.

“No public funds will be expended to enhance or improve a privately held property, except where allowed by law or legally provided by grant revenues,” according to the MOU.

The town would provide funds, as approved by Town Meeting, for fuel, utilities and the normal operation of the building as well as the property surrounding the library.

Details on how the integration would affect the overall budget are expected to presented at the information meeting on Jan. 4.

South Hadley Public Library Director Joseph Rodio said the town has historically committed funding towards the Gaylord library. Some of that funding, he explained, would be used toward an integrated library system.

“The goal is to minimize any financial impact while maintaining the services at both libraries,” Rodio said.

If Town Meeting members don’t approve the MOU, Quigley said it would be up to Gaylord’s board of library trustees to decide what comes next.

“I imagine the library would continue to try to operate as it has been with fundraising and our wonderful core of volunteers,” she said. “But I’m just not sure how sustainable that is in the long run – I think we would have to hope for a big bequest or something really miraculous.”

Quigley called the agreement “successful” and while it doesn’t spell out every detail, she said it hit the important points.

As part of the agreement, all Gaylord library employees would have to reapply for their positions and if rehired, would be considered “new hires.”

The agreement also includes clauses if either party wishes to end the agreement.

Both the Gaylord Memorial Library Board of Trustees and the South Hadley Public Library Board of Trustees have accepted the MOU.

“The public library trustees understand in order to keep library services at the Gaylord available and sustainable integration of services as outlined in the MOU is important,” said Mitchell Resnick, president of the public library’s board of trustees.

Resnick said both libraries had input into the structure of the agreement but no documents is perfect.

“The town gave some things, the Gaylord Library trustees gave some things,” he said. “I think it is a great document that benefits all library users in town. It will be a workable document.”

The town libraries previously had a “loose association,” according to Resnick, that ended shortly after Proposition 2 ½ was adopted by the Commonwealth.

Before the legislation, the town paid for the personnel services for employees and materials but it turned out to be a venture that the town could not sustain any longer, Resnick explained.

“It would have been virtually impossible to sustain both libraries at that time,” Resnick said. “The town had decided at that time, in order to meet the budgetary requirements, the town would have to leave the association.”

The goal of the agreement, according to Resnick, was that it would create a sustainable partnership.

“I don’t think that either library is really coming out of the MOU as having any sort of upper hand on the other. I think it is very fair and balanced,” library director Rodio said. “Both sides with the MOU come away feeling that it establishes a good baseline for this project to go forward.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.