Friday, April 2, 2010

MBLC Meeting on April 1, 2010: Statement of Christopher J. Lindquist, Westfield Athenaeum Director

April 1, 2010

Statement of Christopher J. Lindquist, Westfield Athenaeum Director, Westfield, MA, to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Dear Chairman Comeau and Library Commissioners:

Since this is the first time I have had the opportunity to address the MBLC, I would simply like to thank you on behalf of the Westfield Athenaeum and the residents of the City of Westfield for the tremendous service you have provided to our library, to the regional library systems, the library networks and to libraries of all types in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I feel certain that you would much rather be celebrating the opening of a new or renovated library building than to be sitting here today listening to public comment about the proposed consolidation of the regions.

Having said that, I think it is the height of irony that we are sitting here on April 1st because I feel very strongly that collectively, we will all be fools if we accept the proposal to consolidate the six regional library systems into one entity at one location

in the hub and spokes model being recommended by the Transition Team. I say this with great respect for Rob Maier, the MBLC staff and all who served on the Transition Team.

However, I feel that the plan fails to effectively address the enormous needs of member libraries and residents of the Commonwealth as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

I cannot accept that one of the main options considered by the Transition Team, namely the consolidation to three regions, is not being recommended by the Team. It strains credulity to think that geographical considerations did not carry greater weight in the Team’s deliberations, and I am urging you to consider very strongly the option of maintaining three regions, one in the east, one centrally located, and one in the west, which if funds allow, would absolutely be the most effective structure for member libraries going forward. Further, I find it hard to believe that in 9 months time, we will be dismantling what in the case of the Western MA Regional Library System, has taken 50 years to develop. Would it not be more prudent – perhaps even courageous – to limp along for another year, to maintain three regions at three physical locations, even with a substantially reduced staff, in order to develop those regions as funds become available? While we have a proposed budget for the hub and spokes model, I think budget proposals for the other two models should also be drafted in order to see how they compare to the proposal in front of you.

In a state the size of Massachusetts, with libraries located in the hinterlands of the Berkshires as well as on the Cape and Islands, situating a headquarters in the center of the state, located far away from many member libraries and away from a substantial number of our customers, including some of the smallest and most needy libraries in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, is in my opinion, irresponsible. There are at least 153 residents from Westfield whose signatures we collected on the Save WMRLS Petition who agree with me. I am sure we could have collected many more signatures had we had more time.

Recently, Tim Brennan, the Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, said at an economic summit that one of the “key threats” to the economic recovery in the Pioneer Valley is the “never-ending struggle to gain regional visibility in Boston.” Surely, that is part of the dynamic that you are witnessing here today. We cannot and you should not allow one more regional entity to be moved away from the Western region closer to Boston.

Due to the dedication and hard work of many of the people in this room, I feel that the library system in Massachusetts is in the top five library systems in the nation. If you approve the consolidation proposal before you, I think we will have moved well into the second tier of library systems in the country. Please don’t let that happen.

While I have the opportunity, I would like to say of John Ramsay and the staff or WMRLS, that they are the most caring, creative, cost effective and collaborative people I have had the pleasure to know, and that WMRLS is one of the most outstanding, forward-thinking organizations in the Commonwealth. The member libraries and the residents of the Western Region have been extremely well served by WMRLS over the past 50 years and I hope you will do everything you can to help them continue that irreplaceable service.

Finally, having read the Transition Team’s proposal, I am left with one very strong impression that there is something missing in the proposal: There is no passion, no soul, no heart. It is those missing ingredients that the staff of WMRLS brings every day to their jobs serving its member libraries and it is those qualities that can’t be measured and quantified that you will be dismissing if you accept the proposal before you.

Thank you for your consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment