Taylor Library Survives Funding Cuts, Closure Efforts

The historic Taylor Library, located in East Derry, survived more challenges to its funding and existence at the April 29 Town Council meeting.

The library, funded at $187,189 in Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau’s FY 15 working budget, was slated for closure last year in former Town Administrator John Anderson’s working budget, which zeroed out its funding. A community effort funded the library for another year. But tax-weary Council members and residents again questioned the need for two libraries this year.

Candace Andrews, chairman of the Taylor Board of Trustees, spoke in the Public Comment portion of the meeting. “I appreciate the need for thrift, and that Derry needs to broaden its tax base,” she told the Council and television audience. “But not everything is about cost. This library adds value to our lives.”

Taylor has a good working relationship with the larger Derry Public Library downtown, she said, and their programs are not duplicates, but complementary.

The Taylor Library provides no overtime for employees and employees are not in a union, she said. Salaries are 59 percent of the total budget, which is lower than the state average of 68 percent. And the budget is .4 percent of the total town budget.

The average New Hampshire library costs residents of that town $35.06 per capita per year. At $5.37 per capita, Taylor is a bargain, she said.

While proponents of closing have said that only a portion of residents use Taylor, Andrews said its services are available for anyone who works, lives or goes to school in Derry.

“We meet a wide variety of changing needs,” she said. “It’s not whether we can afford this. Can we afford not to?”

Resident Lynn Perkins took the microphone to suggest that Taylor Library move toward “privatization” instead of tax funding. He pointed out how the Farmers Market, which had its funding reduced by the town last year, moved to private funding and is doing well.

“I respect what Taylor gives to the community, but it is a redundant service,” he told the Council. “Taylor needs to close or privatize. It serves only a small portion of the population.”

But Perkins painted a bigger picture, referring to expanding school costs. “I see a disconnect in the community,” he said. He said residents need to attend the Derry Cooperative School District deliberative session and keep that funding in check if they want to keep their library.

Resident and former Councilor Janet Fairbanks suggested deducting the amount of the proposed addition to the Veterans Tax Credit, estimated at $98,000, from Taylor’s budget. “That would force Taylor to seek contributions from the people who use it,” Fairbanks said. In addition to Derry Public Library, each school has a library, she said.

Taylor Library Trustee Kim Burke countered that her children are homeschooled, so the school libraries aren’t an option. Also, she said, preschoolers and adults don’t have access to those facilities. If library funding is to be truly equitable, then school libraries should be defunded and all the money put into public libraries, she said.

Burke spoke to the sense of community at Taylor Library, with older children mentoring younger ones and students coming back to do Eagle Scout projects and to volunteer.

And there are other “duplicated” services in town, Burke said. There are two town beaches and multiple playgrounds, but no one is suggesting cutting those from the Parks and Recreation budget. There are duplicate fire stations, she said.

Elizabeth Ives, head trustee for the Derry Public Library, advocated a slower and reasoned approach. She said this summer representatives of both Taylor and Derry Public would meet and come up with ideas for next year’s budget. “Both libraries need to talk about how best to be accessible to the residents of Derry,” she said.

Ives said she was not suggesting that Taylor close, but that the two facilities work closely on goals and objectives.

She also pointed to the logistics of closing an entire library, in particular an historic one. “We’re coming up on May, and we would have to decide what to do with the collection, what are the legal issues, what’s the state law on closing libraries,” she said.

Ives said lowering the tax rate is “not a goal, not an objective, but a result” of people working together.

And she challenged the Council, “Your primary job is to make sure the people of Derry have essential services. I call culture ‘essential.’”