Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Future of Regional Library Systems

Dear Western Massachusetts Library Community:

A historic meeting of Executive Boards from the 6 Regional Library Systems took place on Monday, December 14, 2009. Its purpose was to determine the future shape of Regions and their services in the face of continued budget reductions from the State. The FY11 forecast for Regional systems (Board of Library Commissioner State budget account 7000-9401) calls for a cut of 28%. It is clear, with no promising economic news on the horizon, that Regional services and organizational structures need to be reconsidered in order to remain sustainable.

After a full day of discussion of different models and service priorities, it was determined that there is support for a single administrative organization that will consolidate business operations and services that lend themselves to better economies of scale. Everyone is well aware that there is also a great need for a local presence throughout Massachusetts, through which advisory services and continuing education programs will be delivered. The exact shape of that local presence has not yet been decided. One model is a hub and spokes, that would have consultants scattered in different areas, operating either from space in a library or a small office, or even from home via telecommuting. Another much- favored model is for a single administrative unit, with offices in different area of the state that can accommodate two or more consultants and would have training/meeting facilities.

The concern of the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System (WMRLS) and its Executive Board is that services to our unique, vast, rural and remote area must get the attention, visibility and resources it requires to achieve equitable access to library services on a par with other parts of the Commonwealth. With half WMRLS communities having populations under 1,900 people, there is tremendous need for training, individual assistance, and familiarity with small library issues. It is due to the rural nature of our area that Regional library Systems came into being in the first place. WMRLS was the first Region to form (1961), as a direct offshoot of the Western MA Library Federation of the 1950s.

The future prospects for our wonderful WMRLS staff, our excellent and responsive delivery system, and even our headquarters building, are unclear as of this writing.

We know there are many questions and concerns that the West will be overlooked in this process, as people feel “always happens” to our area. Please be assured that, as always, we at WMRLS and our Board will advocate long and hard to ensure that the West will receive the services and attention that libraries of all types need. We will update you regularly about developments as a statewide planning process begins to work out details and future directions and structures.

Yours truly,
John Ramsay, Regional Administrator
Western MA Regional Library System
P.O. Box 609
S. Deerfield, MA 01373
(413) 665-9898 x. 113

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