Ray Duckler: Gilmanton’s year-round library committee, others not on same page
Barbara Reed (left center) helps her grandson Julius Lorentz, 4, (right center) with gluing the beak on to the egg carton chicks they are making for a story time craft while children's librarian Pam Jansury (right) helps Carson Rogers, 3, (left) at the Gilmanton Library; Wednesday, March 20, 2012. The town of Gilmanton recently voted not to help fund the library with taxpayer dollars, without that money the library might close in November.
(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
Nicole Rogers (left center) leaves the Gilmanton Library after story time with her son Carson Rogers, 3, (right) his friend Charlotte Edwards's, 1, (right center) and her daughter Roselyn, 9 months, (left); Wednesday, March 20, 2012. Rogers is s stay at home mom who baby sits Edwards, she says the children look forward to story time at the library every week.
(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
Carson Rogers, 3, helps his friend Charlotte Edwards, 1, put away her carpet square after story time at the Gilmanton Library; Wednesday, March 20, 2012.
(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
The woman from Gilmanton, all 4-foot-9 of her, thrust her shovel into the snow, one day after the latest storm, then thrust herself into another storm.
The one that remains on Gilmanton’s radar screen.
“The library?” Brenda McBride asked the motorist who’d stopped for directions. “You mean the one they want to close despite all the good it does? That library?”
Even on her secluded road, with no one around but a stranger, McBride lobbied for an American institution, using sarcasm and humor to make her point. She removed her hat, revealing silky white hair, tousled in the wind, to make it clear she’d lived in town a long time, about half her 70-plus years of life.
Unlike the silent majority – those who recently voted against the measure to help fund the year-round library – supporters like McBride want to be heard. They’re hoping to establish creative fundraising methods at a meeting Thursday night at 7 at the library.
Without the $45,000 sought in the town ballot vote last week, the library will close Nov. 1.
“The town finally has a heart, and the heart was beating,”
McBride said. “In 2009 they refused it, and you would have thought they were opening a strip club or a saloon near a church.”
It’s been part of Gilmanton’s consciousness for more than 10 years, this old barn across from the grade school, with its high ceiling and long history, dating back to the 18th century.
Volunteers began raising money around the turn of this century, and, after securing $700,000 in donations and $300,000 worth of labor and material, the library was ready to open in 2008.
Trouble at the start
Tax money, though, needed for basic yearly upkeep, was rejected in 2009 at town meeting. Prior to that, the story was so layered – with budgets and taxes and education and American life in a small town – that the New York Times came calling and published an article in November 2008.
The decision against funneling taxpayer money into the library was reversed in 2010, planting the seeds for a debate that won’t go away.
Is the library supposed to be fully funded by private donations?
Or was there some wiggle room to ask Gilmanton residents for help?
“This goes back to the supposed promise or pledge,” said Steve Bedard, a member of the library board and budget committee. “That never, ever happened. We never once made a pledge that we were going to do this without taxpayers’ money. We would have been stupid to do that, knowing the mountain we were going to have to climb over, to raise the money to build it in the first place, and then raise the money to continue to operate it.”
Added McBride, “Sometimes people hear want they want to hear.”
You won’t hear much from the opposition. Not here.
That’s because like the issue in Bradford, where voters are fighting over funding to restore the town’s historic town hall, those who believe this is worthwhile love talking to the press.
Those opposed to these kinds of expenditures, the kind that are not absolutely necessary – and 400 people voted against public funding for the Gilmanton library, with 322 voting for the tax increase – oftentimes don’t bring attention to themselves.
McBride says, “There’s too much tea in this town.”
Tea? As in green tea?
“Tea Party people,” McBride, a Republican, responded.
Bedard said he knows who’s behind the anti-library movement. He wouldn’t give a name, but he says the person has been spreading misinformation about the issue, that no tax increase was a lock.
“It’s probably from someone who may have been disgruntled with the group, or it may have been someone who is no longer with the group,” Bedard said. “I believe it is a personal vendetta, that this town is being punished because of this person’s personal vendetta.”
Also, Bedard, McBride and Anne Kirby, president of the Year-Round Library Association and an English teacher at nearby Gilmanton Elementary School, say the town’s switch this year from traditional town meeting to an SB 2 format, moving voters from an open forum to the polls, squelched the flow of information and left residents without the knowledge needed to make an informed decision.
As far as speculating why someone might be against a full-time library, Kirby said, “I’m not going to offer a why. I don’t think there’s a good answer for this.”
Logic says there is. No one wants higher taxes, especially during taxing times. Plus, if neither you nor your children are going to use the library, why pay?
McBride took the communal approach. “I have a heart,” she said.
And Bedard took the economical approach, saying the rate would be $9 annually on each $100,000 of assessed property value.
“I would say it’s affordable to most people,” he said. “People who can’t afford computers or the internet, they have no place to go to. And the librarian spends a lot of time helping people apply online for jobs. That’s a big piece of what happens at the library.”
An important learning tool
The library features wood – beams, ceilings, tables, all sanded and smooth. There are six computers, an upper floor for quiet private time, DVDs, magazines, audiobooks and, of course, regular books, 12,000 in all.
Story time is on Wednesday mornings. This week, Bedard shovels the walkway near the front. Inside, Pam Jansury, known as Ms. Pam, works crafts with a few pre-schoolers and talks about the first day of spring.
“When I heard about the vote, I thought about the kids,” Jansury says. “What can we do to keep it open? Last month we had 130 kids in our programs.”
Nicole Rogers is there with her two children, 9-month-old Rosalyn and Carson, 3. She’s asked about the vote on March 12. “Shocked, surprised, disappointed,” she says. “I thought the community would pull together. People who don’t have children lose sight of why this is important.”
Tasha LeRoux, the first-year librarian, describes the resiliency shown by supporters the day after the vote. She says people brought flowers and ice cream to the library and pledged financial support.
Soon, McBride walks in, carrying a bag.
“I have some books to return,” she said.