Taylor Library Supporters Advocate for Funding, Public Comment Curtailed

Call it a preemptive strike.

Though Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau has included its funding in his proposed 2015 budget, advocates of the Taylor Library in East Derry still attended the April 15 Town Council meeting to voice their support for the facility.

The library, one of Derry’s two public libraries, survived a challenge to its existence last year when former Town Administrator John Anderson proposed eliminating funding. Citing the town’s high tax burden and need to tighten its belt, Anderson maintained that Taylor’s services were duplicated by the larger Derry Public Library on East Broadway. Throughout last year’s budget season, community members ranging from children to nostalgic adults fought back in public forums, and the library was funded for another year.

Council Chairman Mark Osborne mounted a similar attack at the April 17 budget meeting.

Budreau’s budget for the Taylor Library for 2015 is $187,189, an increase over last year’s $176,598.

Retired Library Director Marge Palmer was the first to speak on the library in the public forum, and she advocated not only for the budget, but for expansion.

“I have lived on Warner Hill Road for 51 years, and I have seen much change in this community,” Palmer said. She listed changes in the schools, her church and her neighborhood “They have all grown,” she said. But though its service to the community has increased, Taylor Library’s footprint has not, she said.

“There is not one other public building in this town that has not undergone some kind of major renovation,” she said. The library “waited its turn” while its sister facility underwent major renovations, she said. They finally were able to engage an architect and map out a plan that would expand the library to the rear, while keeping the front section in harmony with the Historic District. The new plan would have provided more space for services and expanded parking, and would have used land the town already owned.

Expanding the library was in the 2002 Master Plan, Palmer said. It “got shifted” to 2010, but is not in the current Master Plan, she said. And the money spent on architects and feasibility studies is gone.

“I am asking you to reflect on our long history,” she said of the 130-year-old facility. “I left a part of my heart in that library please don’t break it.”

Kerry King, mother of two children, also spoke in support of Taylor Library. “We all remember last year, when Mr. Anderson shocked the town by attempting to defund the library,” she said.

Why should the town continue to fund Taylor? It’s important to all residents, but King chose to focus on children’s services. She began going to Taylor when her older child, now 8, was 2 1/2.

“Library Day was the high point of the week,” she said. While the family also uses Derry Public Library, she said Taylor is successful for a number of reasons: it nurtures the love of books and reading, gives preschoolers continuity, and keeps reading alive for school-aged children in its summer programs.

It also teaches preschoolers important social skills, she added. “Where else would they learn ‘criss cross applesauce’?” she asked, referring to the rhyme librarians use to get children to cross their legs and sit quietly.

And with Taylor’s small scale and fairy-tale looks, it’s not overwhelming to children, she said.

“For 130 years it’s been successful and nurtured the love of learning,” King said.

Candace Andrews, chairman of the Taylor Board of Trustees, was in the front row ready to speak. But Osborne made the decision to limit discussion to two participants.

“At the end of the budget season, there will be a public forum and you can speak then,” he told the Taylor advocates. “Your voices are an echo from last year.”

One woman shouted from the back, “You just spent the five minutes Candy could have spoken!”

Osborne remained firm. “We went through this last year,” he told the Derry residents. “Your concerns are noted. Is there anyone who wants to speak in the public forum that isn’t speaking for Taylor Library?”

Resident Lynn Perkins took the microphone to observe, “We are struggling with taxes. Taylor Library is a beautiful building. But it’s not a priority for other residents. Your priority,” he addressed the library supporters, “puts a tax pressure on other families. The tax burden is for the whole community.”

Perkins referenced the tax burden he said was placed on the town by the Derry Cooperative School District and told the Taylor contingent, “If you want to hold on to your library, show up at the School District meeting next February.”