Monday, May 24, 2010

[WMRLS] Merger Vote Reminder and Updates

The following message was posted to the WMRLS email discussion list on Sunday, May 23 at 2:10 p.m.

Dear Western Region Libraries:

This is a reminder that we need you to vote on the proposed merger of WMRLS with the other regions into a new statewide organization called the Massachusetts Library System (MLS). Ballots were sent by mail to all WMRLS voting representatives, and these must be cast by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, 2010. Ballots may be submitted at the 10 a.m. WMRLS Council of Members meeting at the Agawam Public Library on the 25th, where lively and spirited discussion is sure to take place. If you cannot be in Agawam, you can participate in the session online at You can vote online at You can also give your ballot to someone else (proxy) to cast your vote for you. Faxing your completed ballot to WMRLS is another option, to 413-665-8877. NOTE, in order for any vote to be counted, you must use the PIN number in the lower right hand corner of the ballot.

Many people are torn about whether to vote for or against the merger. There has been a great deal of advocacy from throughout Western Massachusetts in hopes that WMRLS can continue operating and providing important services to member libraries as it has for almost 50 years. We must, however, report on recent budgetary and legislative developments that may well affect how you vote.

Thus far in the State’s FY11 budget process, all steps have kept the FY11 amount for the MBLC’s Regional account (7000-9401) at the 29% cut called for in the Governor’s budget. This reduced funding level is what caused all the talk of consolidation in the first place. Although there is one amendment to the Senate budget to increase funding to the current FY10 level, all indications are that a restoration of funds is unlikely. Therefore, despite how people feel in their hearts and allegiances, an AFFIRMATIVE VOTE may make the most sense in the short and long term for our member libraries.

Recognizing that the funds are simply not there, Senators Brewer, Downing, Knapik and Rosenberg last week filed Amendment 72 that inserts this language: “provided further, that the board of library commissioners shall provide funds for the continued operation of a single regional library system to serve the different geographic regions of the Commonwealth, and requiring that physical locations be maintained in both eastern and western Massachusetts to serve the residents of said regions.”

This language is different from House Budget language that called for funding of two separate regional organizations, one in the east and one in the west. This Senate wording calls for there to be one statewide system (MLS), with service locations in both the east and the west. Rep. John Scibak, who had filed the House amendment, worked tirelessly to help develop and promote this Senate language, realizing the difficulty WMRLS would have providing all required regional services with inadequate funds to sustain two separate regions. We wish this were not the case, but it is.

The Senate budget language, assuming it is passed by the full Senate and a Senate/House Conference Committee, is Western legislators’ attempt to ensure that MLS will operate a facility and provide services in the West. To all our legislators, we extend our sincere appreciation for their efforts to WMRLS in operation, as requested by their constituents.

All the advocacy has been truly inspiring for all of us at WMRLS. If the vote to merge garners the required 2/3 affirmative votes by our voting members, it will be essential that our member libraries and residents continue to be proactive in insisting that the unique needs of Western Mass. libraries receive MLS’s attention, support and responsiveness. This new merged organization must help the West, where 81% of the State’s smallest communities are located, across 37% of the State’s land area, isolated in so many ways from Boston. You must continue to make your voices heard. You must ensure that there is adequate funding and staffing so that delivery, advisory services and continuing education will be provided locally, much of it from the Whately facility that was designed for these very purposes. Other services will be provided by MLS in more economical, economy of scale ways.

No matter how the final vote turns out, it has been extremely gratifying for all of us at WMRLS to work on your behalf for so many years. Our attempts have always been to equalize services and support for libraries and residents across Western Massachusetts. Your responses to the current difficult situation have assured us that our work was appreciated by all of you.

John Ramsay
Regional Administrator, WMRLS

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