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Library may end Fitchburg's borrowing; Trustees worry if Fitchburg decertified.

Byline: Matthew Bruun

LEOMINSTER - The trustees of the public library are scheduled to meet today to discuss whether to rescind borrowing privileges for residents of communities with closed or decertified libraries.

The subject matter is coming up as the result of a 68 percent cut in the neighboring Fitchburg Public Library budget, a reduction that is expected to cost the library its state certification early next year.

Library trustees in Gardner and Lunenburg already have voted to curtail borrowing privileges to residents of communities with closed or decertified libraries, votes that occurred in the aftermath of Fitchburg's fiscal woes.

At their meeting last month, the Leominster library trustees issued a statement on the issue.

"The Board of Trustees of the Leominster Public Library is in the process of gathering additional information regarding the decisions made by the City of Fitchburg and the impact of these decisions on our library," the statement began. "Further, the Board of Trustees has been made aware of options being considered by the City of Fitchburg. Therefore, the Board of Trustees will make a timely decision that will maintain the high quality of service provided by our staff and volunteers. All decisions made by the Board of Trustees will be in the best interest of the citizens of Leominster."

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners sets guidelines for municipal funding and the number of hours a library must be open to be certified by the organization. The budget cuts in Fitchburg have reduced its hours to three days a week, slashed spending for new materials and eliminated most of the staff.

Trustees at the Lunenburg Public Library and the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner recently adopted similarly worded policies that would prohibit residents of communities with closed or decertified libraries from borrowing items from their collections.

The libraries extend reciprocal borrowing privileges to residents of those communities whose libraries are funded to standards set by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, their policies state.

"Such reciprocity is not possible when a library ceases to provide services (i.e. closes completely) or reduces its hours or support below the MBLC standard for the size of community it serves," according to the policy accepted June 25 by the trustees of the Gardner library.

"The Levi Heywood Memorial Board of Trustees does recognize the hardship this places on residents of decertified communities," their policy states. "However, when officials of other communities have chosen not to fund their own library, the Levi Heywood Memorial Library Board can not pass the costs of serving these decertified patrons on to the taxpayers of Gardner.

"It is therefore the policy of the Levi Heywood Memorial Library to discontinue borrowing and network transfer privileges to residents and libraries in communities who terminate library service or reduce hours of opening and or funding to below certification standards for the size of that community as determined by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners."

The library buildings remain open to the public, and residents of decertified towns may still access the collections and programming on-site. It is only borrowing that is prohibited by the policies.

Gardner also deals with patrons from Phillipston, which does not have a certified library, and Hubbardston, where a Proposition 2-1/2 override vote is scheduled for later this month that backers hope will save the library.

The Leominster library trustees meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the second-floor conference room.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 14, 2008
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