Trouble in Massachusetts

Isn’t there a better way to handle this?

The Hingham Public Library’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday night to stop lending library materials to Hull residents, effective next Monday.

The decision comes in response to the Hull Public Library’s decertification by the state earlier this month, because Hull had cut the library budget disproportionately to other accounts in the town budget.

Decertification means that Hull will lose all state aid to its library, and Hull library card holders face the prospect of losing the right to borrow from libraries in other towns.

For now, the Thomas Crane Library in Quincy is the only library that has said it will continue to allow Hull residents to borrow materials. Milton, Randolph, and Walpole plan to decide soon whether to continue lending to Hull residents.

According to Hingham’s library director, Dennis Corcoran, Hull residents borrowed 33,468 items from Hingham last year, or nearly one-third of the materials lent to nonresidents.

The Hingham trustees said Wednesday that Hull residents are welcomed to use the Hingham library and attend activities there, but cannot borrow items, either directly or through the interlibrary loan network.

OK.  I understand that there need to be consequences for the Hull Powers-That-Be in cutting the library’s financing to the point that it loses certification. Nasty stuff, that, and it is something that communities need to consider when deciding what to slash in their respective budgets.

To some extent I understand that by punishing the residents of Hull, they will descend with pitchforks on the City Hall (metaphorically speaking, of course) and demand that the funding be restored.  However, meanwhile, people are losing the ability to borrow items from the library – and one that they have traditionally borrowed from, judging by the circulation numbers.

Couldn’t these two communities have worked out an arrangement? Since so many Hull residents are using the Hingham library anyway, couldn’t Hull have paid Hingham for library services? Merge the two libraries? Something?

It’s situations like these that make the library look like the bad guy. Not what we’re looking to do, is it?

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3 Comments

Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

3 responses to “Trouble in Massachusetts

  1. Susan M

    Well yes, and no. Truthfully, I can see both sides on this one. Yes, ideally something should have been arranged to make sure people could continue to receive library services. But it’s sort of the eternal debate as to whether to make budget cuts visible to patrons or not. At a certain point, visible cuts make sense because it makes the need apparent. It’s not so much a question of punishing Hull residents — collectively, they chose to elect the city officials to represent them. Their representatives made the decision to cut library services. So, as far as I see it, Hull residents made a decision to forgo library services. It might be one that they regret, but it was still their decision. And I’m sure, given the economy, that the surrounding libraries have their own budget issues and limitations to deal with. I don’t see the library as the bad guy on this one.

  2. Susan – I agree, there are two sides to this, and I understand each. I’m just wondering whether something could have been worked out that would have still allowed Hull residents library access. According to the story, one-third of the Hingham materials circulated to non-residents went to Hull patrons. They’re already using the library; if the Hull representatives were THINKING, they could have approached the Hingham library to contract for services for their residents.

    It’s just a shame when community leaders don’t think these things through.

  3. Pingback: Further fun in Massachusetts « Impromptu Librarian

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