While the formal vote hasn’t been taken and the pros and cons have not been formally discussed, the Taylor Library received a boost at the April 16 Town Council meeting, when five of the seven Councilors expressed support for keeping the library open.
The 2014 budget for the town includes no funding for the library, which serves East Derry but is open to the rest of the community. In crafting the budget, Town Administrator John Anderson explained that the Derry Public Library was better positioned to serve the community’s needs.
A petition drive and letter-writing campaign by Taylor users has followed, and showed fruit at last week’s meeting. Staff, trustees and supporters took turns at the microphone. Trustee Aimee Huntemann brought her daughter Sylvia, 8 months old. Huntemann said, “I plan on taking her to the Tiny Tots story hour – but she’s not eligible until September.” The Huntemanns are a one-car family, she said, and she appreciates having a library she can walk to.
A letter from Valerie Peters, read by her mother, Dorothy, cited Taylor Library as “the institution that has had the most profound influence on my childhood.” Peters still remembered her library card number, 2201, and said the librarians remembered it when she came in. Fathers as well as mothers spoke in support of the library. Mark Reimer thanked the Council for serving the town, and said, “I hope you will consider continuing to fund it. It’s fiscally responsible, well-run with a lean budget.”
But there are also the intangibles, Reimer said, such as the small-town feel and antique building. “It’s difficult to get these back when they are gone,” he said. Parent John Bridge said, “You can’t put a dollar value on it.”
But Candace Andrews, a long-time trustee and current chair, did put a dollar value on what the town is getting from Taylor. “In 2011 the library cost Derry 5.19 cents per capita,” she said. “The average in New Hampshire is $36.45. The amount of the budget dedicated to salaries is 58 percent the average in New Hampshire is 66 percent. Last year’s working budget for Taylor, $176,612, is .04 percent of Derry’s proposed budget.”
But Andrews added, “The value to the community is so much more.” She cited five story hours per week, 27 Summer Reading Program events, three nights of the “Polar Express” program with 13 children in each, 2,906 cardholders an increase of 200 – in 2012, 315 petition-signers, and an average of 12 visitors per hour.
Resident Cecile Cormier also had statistics. In 2010, she said, the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee visited Taylor with a list of 11 recommendations. Eight have been accomplished, Cormier said. In 2010, she said, the library spent $2,058 on electricity; by 2012, that figure was $1,756, and $1,400 was projected for this year. In 2010 the facility used 973.8 gallon of oil; in 2012 it used 457.9.
“Other budgets,” Cormier said, “are going up by the thousands for energy costs.” Gina Hutchinson, a 43-year Derry resident, mourned the things that have been lost, including the old Post Office and the Pinkerton Tavern. “Why is history so unimportant to us?” she asked. “We’re penny-wise and pound-foolish. We are the problem.” Other speakers included teachers from the Nutfield Cooperative Preschool, next to the library, and School Board chairman Brenda Willis.
It was enough for Councilor Neil Wetherbee, who said, “In my five years on the Council, I have never seen an outpouring like this.” While a formal vote was not possible, Wetherbee said he was for keeping the library and urged his fellow Councilors, “Let’s alleviate the fears of these people.” Councilor Brad Benson, whose late father, Grant, was a library trustee, said, “I have never supported the closing.”
Councilors Phyllis Katsakiores and Thomas Cardon agreed. Councilor Al Dimmock, a grandfather and great-grandfather, said, “I love children. No way will I vote to close it.” Chairman Michael Fairbanks said he was still reviewing facts. Councilor Mark Osborne said he has had several emails and phone calls on the issue, and has attempted to respond to them all. But he said, “I have not made up my mind. I want to hear both sides. I think we owe it to John Anderson to hear the other side of the coin.”
But Osborne and other Councilors praised the residents for their determination. “My goal,” Osborne said, “is to see the room this full for every Council meeting.” Anderson and the Taylor trustees are scheduled to discuss the funding at the April 30 budget session.