Letter: Put back $74,000 cut from library budget

Posted 7/1/20

To the members of the Barrington Town Council and Committee on Appropriations:

This note is to request that the Committee on Appropriations (“COA”) put back the nearly $74,000 that was …

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Letter: Put back $74,000 cut from library budget

Posted

To the members of the Barrington Town Council and Committee on Appropriations:

This note is to request that the Committee on Appropriations (“COA”) put back the nearly $74,000 that was cut from the library’s budget for FY 2021. 

Members of the committee and town council may not have been aware that the line items within the municipal cuts presented to them included disproportionate cuts to the library at a time when this department needs those funds the most. Even more frustrating is that this could take place in the same town in which its citizens committed nearly $2.4 million to make the library more accessible to its children, citizens, and the community.

The director accomplishes a great deal with a limited budget. These punitive cuts tie the director’s hands and limit access to valuable resources which the residents of Barrington have demanded. It is unclear why the COA thinks that the library’s mission and services are so dramatically less essential and important than they used to be.

Our hope is that we can all get on the same page.

The library adapts to serve. Its staff worked tirelessly to ensure that programs such as the Veteran’s Writing Group -- a safe, supportive environment for our veterans -- never missed a beat during the shutdown. Now open, the library’s obligation to both the public’s and its staff’s safety has only increased. These cuts create a gap which directly impacts the library’s ability to adapt to the “new normal” while serving its constituency as it has in the past. Here are just a few areas these cuts will impact:

• Part-time staff needed to cover vacations and sick time for full-time staff, even at reduced hours.

• The impact of increased cost of constantly sanitizing materials and equipment. The library’s operating budget has not increased in several years, only receiving a cost of living increase for salaries and wages, so the increased cost for sanitizing materials and equipment will have to be absorbed into an already strained budget.

• The custodial staff’s cleaning protocol has been increased to disinfect high touch areas every two hours, so, with only one full-time custodian, part-time staff must be brought in to maintain this schedule.

• Patron expectations require the library to be open some evening hours and weekend hours to accommodate working schedules.

• More staff is required to monitor the behavior of the public. For example, a count of people coming inside the building is necessary, so we don’t exceed the safe capacity. Part-time staff is needed to fill this position.  Similarly, staff will be needed to circulate throughout the library to ensure that the patrons are maintaining social distancing.

• Additional staff is needed for curbside pick-up for library materials which will continue, even as we add more building hours, to accommodate the elderly and those at high risk.

As we look forward to FY 2021, it is our hope that our library – a library that enjoys the highest per capita support in all of Rhode Island -- not be forced to cut the services it provides and penalize some of its most vulnerable citizens. The residents of Barrington, who have time and time again demonstrated their commitment to and love of the library, cannot be let down.

Regards,

Vincent G. Wicker

Barrington

Mr. Wicker is chairman of the Barrington Library Board of Trustees.

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