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Steve Spohn speaks at the annual legislative breakfast.
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State Sen. Benjamin Downing.
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Joe Rodio.
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Richard Felver.
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State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier addresses the crowd.
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Jan Resnick of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners speaking.
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Mary Kronholm.
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State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi.

Library Advocates Lobby State Lawmakers For More Funding

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi reads a handout provided by the advocates.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Since 2001, state funds for technology and resource sharing among the state's libraries has decreased from $4.4 million to $2.1 million. 
 
State aid to regional libraries has decreased from $16.9 million to $9.9 million in the same time frame. Overall, support of libraries has fallen from $34.6 million to $25.3 million. Meanwhile, every thing from usage to costs have gone up, according to those who work in libraries.
 
Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing Inc. (CWMARS) is a consortium of libraries which share access to books and resources. Board member Richard Felver says in 2014, 6.5 million items were taken out of libraries and 7.9 million academic articles were read. E-book circulation has increased by 34 percent. 
 
"You can't do these kind of things without strong networks," Felver said on Friday morning when the Library Supporters of Western Massachusetts spent the morning advocating for additional funds with state lawmakers.
 
The 17th annual legislative breakfast brought state Sen. Benjamin Downing and state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Gailanne Cariddi to the Berkshire Athenaeum to hear why the state should allocate more funding to libraries. 
 
"Library services are in jeopardy because of cuts to mutually shared budget lines," said Mary Kronholm of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
 
She said because of the cuts, the CWMARS memberships for libraries have grown by more than 5 percent. 
 
According to Steve Spohn, resource sharing director of the Massachusetts Library System, the state resources help run the inter-library loan program. Instead of each library buying all of the product, the items can be shared among the libraries which cost only 30 cents per item to bring to the locations. Spohn said without that, the libraries would have to package and ship all the items, which could cost up to $35 million.
 
"When that funding is cut, the burden falls disproportionately on the smaller libraries," said Joe Rodio, president of the Western Mass Library Advocates.
 
Spohn said with the state passing the earned sick time law and raising the minimum wage, as well as passage of the affordable care act, have are "essentially budget cuts for us because they raised the delivery cost."
 
Rodio also advocated for the state aid to regional libraries line, which he says is the "lifeblood" of programming. He said that line, which was cut by some $7 million over the last 15 years, provides the backbone for all the work libraries do. He said programs like the summer reading ones which helps prevent children from falling into the "summer slide" are impacted by the state budget
 
"This is a way to combat that. Hooking kids to reading has been shown to lead to better success," Spohn said.
 
Eric Poulin, of the Mass Library Association, reminded the legislators that the libraries don't just serve students or just hold reading clubs for elderly women. Libraries help the most vulnerable populations looking for education and to better themselves.
 
"We are at the front line every day working with the most at-risk people," he said.
 
Poulin works at the Greenfield Community College library and teachers courses on how to do academic research. One year he had a 35-year-old non-traditional student and when it came to the final paper, the student proposed writing about overcoming addiction. The man had been a heroin addict who recently kicked and went back to school. 
 
A week before the paper was due, the man asked for an extension because he lost his housing and was homeless. For the next two weeks, the man was at the door at 8 a.m. when the library closed and was the last one out. He wasn't sleeping on the couches but rather, the library had become a place to keep him focused on his schooling. 
 
"He was there because he wanted to be there," Poulin said. 
 
When the man turned in his paper, it was the best one Poulin read. So when lawmakers are looking at helping the most vulnerable or helping to solve the opioid crisis, Poulin said the library has a role, too. 
 
Overall the advocates say libraries play a significant role in the state's education system, and add to a communities quality of life. There are nine lines the state budget, which they say are all interconnected and need resources to provide the best library system. 
 
"I don't forget about it. Libraries are important. I understand about your community service," said Cariddi, adding that she's heard many stories of how libraries have helped her constituents. 
 
Downing too expressed his support for libraries but added that rising health care costs and the income tax dropping - taking some $75 million out of revenues mid-year - makes it difficult. 

Tags: legislators,   public library,   

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Dalton Finance Makes Interdepartmental, Reserve Fund Transfers

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Finance Committee made a number of interdepartmental and reserve fund transfers during its meeting last week. 
 
The reserve fund balance is currently $58,000, Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson said. 
 
The committee also approved a reserve fund transfer to the employee fringe benefits account for $1,200; the current balance is $183.55. The town originally appropriated $2,114.
 
It also approved the transfer of $1,500 from the reserve fund to the Medicare account, which currently has a balance of $4,510. The town originally appropriated $50,000. 
 
Finance Chair William Drosehn said these increases are due to additional hires, according to town Treasurer Dawn Fahey. 
 
Fahey said she feels confident that the requested amount will be enough, he said. 
 
Hutcheson said he does not foresee any more onboarding before June 30. 
 
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