Study Recommends Large Increase In Mashpee Library Budget
By: Geoff Spillane, December 13, 2013
Mashpee Board of Selectmen last week were presented with the conclusions and recommendations of an independent library management study and they were familiar ones. The library is understaffed and there needs to be a substantial budget increase.
The $8,500 study was commissioned by the Friends of the Mashpee Public Library and was conducted by Ruth E. Kowal, the retired director of administration and finance for the Boston Public Library who now offers independent library assessment and planning services. At the conclusion of the study, Ms. Kowal recommended that the library budget be increased from its current Fiscal Year 2014 allocation of $440,494 to $626,994 by FY17.
Ms. Kowal identified several major issues necessitating the budget increase in the 44-page report. They included the popularity of the library, which has led to an off-kilter staff to customer ratio, outdated job descriptions for library employees that do not take into account new technology and service delivery, dated print materials, needed investment in technology, and lack of public programming. She also noted that the new library building, while “quite beautiful,” does not have enough non-public workspace for employees, and that the layout and sight lines of the building make it difficult to properly supervise the facility with the current staff contingent.
“With the current complement of staff, Mashpee is only able to offer a fast food version of library service—high traffic, but not much substance,” Ms. Kowal wrote in the report.
In addition, Ms. Kowal also reported that library director Kathleen M. Mahoney is working beyond the hours currently governed by her collective bargaining agreement and is not being compensated for the extra time. “This has to be an untenable situation for the current director,” Ms. Kowal wrote.
The study noted that once Mashpee reaches a population of 15,000 residents, it will need to increase its service by eight hours per week to meet the State Aid to Public Libraries regulations. The most recent Town of Mashpee Annual Report listed the town’s population as being 14,075 as of December 31, 2012.
The presentation of the study findings was not well received by Town Manager Joyce M. Mason and some members of the board of selectmen.
“Every department in the town is staffed that way, and they are stretched too. We all love utopia, but we report to the taxpayers,” John J. Cahalane, chairman of the board of selectmen, said, adding that he did think the study was a good place to start a discussion about future needs for the library.
‘Mashpee is only able to offer a fast food version of library service.’ - Ruth E. Kowal
Ms. Mason said that she thought some of the information was a bit misrepresented and that old data was used. “I’m disappointed that the individual doing the study did not reach out to other town departments such as human resources and IT, and I’m sure the job descriptions are current, and did not take into account recent hires. I am willing to work with the library to discuss concerns regarding staffing and budget,” she said.
At May Town Meeting, voters approved an article calling for the hiring of two part-time circulation assistants.
Patricia A. Gamache, chairman of the library board of trustees, said she was disappointed by the reaction to the study, which was initially requested by the Mashpee Finance Committee. “Maybe they thought the study would say the library was fully staffed?” she asked.
Ms. Gamache said she has been meeting with Ms. Mason and will continue to do so in an effort to work more productively with town hall.
“I want to expand the vision of town leaders so that they won’t see the library as a drain on Mashpee’s finances, but as a draw for residents and visitors from other towns to come here. If we can move to the next level and make the library a center of education and activity, people will come here and eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores. Maybe we need to position the library as an economic driver for Mashpee,” she said.
After the holiday season, Ms. Gamache said that perhaps there will be another meeting scheduled, this time at the library, to continue the discussion, as she wants to ensure that the study is not shelved and forgotten.
Theresa M. Cook, a member of the Mashpee Finance Committee and its liaison to the library, also said that there were some inaccuracies in the report because the data was old.
“We knew when we were building a library of that size with two floors that more staff would be needed and nobody is disputing that. The library staff and trustees would not be doing their job if they weren’t asking for additional resources, but we need to consider our financial position and what we can add to departments that are making similar requests. It needs to go through the process,” she said, adding that she also thinks that an assumption made in the report—that Mashpee will cross the 15,000 population threshold—may not happen.
"It’s always difficult to balance needs and wants, but this is a good start to begin discussions with the library,” Ms. Cook said.