Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Column- What New Libraries Can Mean for a Town

Greenfield Recorder 12/13/2011, Page A04

Shutesbury: Visit our library

We are writing to invite our friends and neighbors in Shutesbury to please come and visit our new Wendell Free Library before your town vote on Jan. 10.

As many of you in the area know, Wendell was also the fortunate recipient of a state grant for the construction of a new library, which we opened in 2007. Before that, we had been happily using a small 700-square-foot library without running water or facilities.

It would not be an exaggeration to say our new library has transformed this small town. It has served all the traditional functions of a library and at the same time has become a vibrant center of community life. During the final year in our “old library,” we served 4,500 library users; last year, we served almost 12,000. Library-sponsored programs in the final year of our old library numbered only two; last year, we sponsored 218 (and an additional 114 non-library sponsored programs) in which more than 3,500 people participated.

But the numbers tell only part of the story: The library serves patrons of all ages with regular pre-school playgroups as well as programs and dedicated space for teens. Essential to many of us is our generous number of computers and Wifi access in what is still “dial-up land.” We also have an art gallery in our meeting room booked well into next summer with exhibits of the work of local artists. Also in the meeting room, we have a state-of-the art Blu-ray movie theater offering a regular series of films.

Our new facility has also allowed us to apply successfully for a number of grants: for collection development, to purchase solar panels, and to hire teen coordinator, and a number of library “senior aides.” And the town has also found wonderful uses for our “old library,” now the Senior Center, and is heavily used by a number of groups in town.

Of course, we would not have had such success without our librarian extraordinaire, Rosie Heidkamp, and you have the same in Mary Ann Antonellis. And like us, your librarian has the support of a very active Friends of the Library group.

So what’s not to love? Taxes. Like Shutesbury, Wendell has one of the highest tax rates in the state though our per-capita income and property valuations are lower than yours. But Wendell citizens decided to “bite that bullet” knowing we would never again have such an opportunity for generous state support. Not for a moment have we regretted that decision and give thanks every day for the Wendell Free Library, the heartbeat of our community.

Please do come and visit us before you cast your vote in Shutesbury on Jan. 10. We would love to see our Shutesbury friends and neighbors, and, of course, anyone else in the area, to show you around our beloved library.

Margo Culley wrote this for the Friends of the Wendell Free Library.

Margo Culley

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