Friday, July 20, 2007
Elected trustees guide Gleason Library
Behind the scenes at the Gleason Public Library is a small board of elected Trustees who support the busy and popular facility. Trustees Phil Conti, Dale Ryder and Priscilla Stevens all credit Library Director Angela Mollet with making their volunteer duties enjoyable.
The library is located on Bedford Road in a brick building, part of which dates back to 1896. An addition was added in 1973, and the building was extensively renovated in 2000.
According to the Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook, most libraries in the state are overseen by a board of trustees, at least half of which are elected. Trustees serve as the town's representatives, hiring and supervising the library director, overseeing the Endowment Fund and the development of the library budget. According to the library's web site (www.gleasonlibrary.org) the Trustees are required to know the local, state and federal laws while upholding "the principles of equal access to information and the free exchange of ideas."
The Trustees are elected to three-year terms, and have chosen to rotate their positions on the board. Conti is in his second term, serving this year as chair. Ryder, who is in her first term, is treasurer, and Stevens, just re-elected for a second term, is serving as secretary this year.
When she decided to run for Library Trustee, Stevens was told the once-a-month board meetings were a mere one and one-half hours. "The first meeting lasted three hours," she said, but added, "It has got to be the easiest committee job, because the library runs like a well-oiled machine." Ryder agreed. "It is a well-run, well-managed, forward-thinking library."
The Trustees usually meet Thursday mornings before the library opens. Mollet presents a monthly report and discusses the budget, her staff, concerns or issues. "We don't micro-manage," explained Conti. For example, though the Trustees are in charge of hiring the Library Director, said Stevens, "the rest of hiring is done by the director."
Volunteers augment staff
The staff consists of two full-time employees (Mollet and Assistant Director/Head of Children's Department Marty Seneta) and a number of part-time employees. "Staff members are overbooked," Stevens said, "and the library depends on the supportof volunteers who perform a variety of tasks." Conti agrees. "We have tons of volunteers." He hopes the town appreciates how important the volunteer work is in supporting the library. According to the town's 2006 Annual Report, library volunteers worked over 1,500 hours last year.
The library is financed primarily by Carlisle taxes, and is "incredibly financially conservative," said Stevens. State aid to libraries has fallen since 2001. The state will provide about $6,000 in aid in FY08, a small part of the library's operating budget of $487,110. In order to keep costs down, "you really need to have a very firm vision" for the library, Stevens said. "We decided we wanted to be technologically current, but not at the expense of traditional things that the library does."
"Angela does a wonderful job of looking forward and determining what the library needs are," Ryder said. Stevens agreed, "We have concentrated on trying to find alternative sources of funds to support the services the library offers." She added, "You get a lot of bang for your buck at Gleason, and I think the town appreciates that and is therefore generally supportive."
Expanded hours popular
Through a survey done in 2005, the library identified longer operating hours as a priority for Carlisle residents. The top choice, by 42.7%, was Saturday hours during the summer, which are funded this year by $4,900 out of the $245,682 town override, according to Stevens. "We have plenty of circulation and plenty of attendance on Saturdays in the summer," she explained.
Trustees review maintenance needs with the Library Director. "I don't walk into the library and see just books," Stevens said, "I see the worn rug on the floor. The front façade is leaking," she explained, "and will need repair, as well as the heat and air conditioning system. The septic system will eventually need replacing as well." She noted that the building itself is important to the town as it is designated as an emergency shelter (it has a generator).
Everyday maintenance projects are handled through the library's operating budget, but special projects are funded through other sources. Extraordinary projects outside the scope of the operating budget may fall under long-term capital projects, which are submitted to the town for separate funding, or may be covered by donations to the library.
Donations add up
The Trustees manage the Gleason Public Library Endowment Fund with the Library Director and the president of the non-profit volunteer group, Friends of Gleason Public Library. The Endowment Fund was created to support the library beyond everyday needs. The fund cannot be used for operating expenses but is used to add to the collection, upgrade technology, present arts programs, support landscaping projects and other special projects. Funds donated to "Gleason Public Library" are placed in the Endowment Fund, Stevens explained.
The town also manages trust assets as well as those library-specific donations made out to "Town of Carlisle." Town-managed library assets include the funds created by donations or bequests to the the Hollis Fund, Melone Fund, Richardson Fund, Green Fund and Town Gift Fund. According to Stevens, as of February, the library-managed endowment investments and assets totaled about $190,000 and the town-managed assets were close to $381,000 for a total in library-directed funds assets of $571,000. Subtracting those assets that are restricted (such as bequests where only the interest may be spent), the total available for expenditure amounts to about $449,000.
Donations can also be given to the Friends of Gleason Public Library, which supports the library in a variety of ways, offering special programs, services and purchasing materials requested by the library.
When asked what he would like to see if he had unlimited funds, Conti said he would construct a children's activity center behind the library. Stevens would love to see a separate electronics area, perhaps walled off from the main room with glass, so that library patrons can use computers and listen to music or books on tape without disturbing those reading books or magazines.
Trustees' role over a century old
The first Trustees in 1896, W. A. Prescott, B. F. Blaisdell, Jr. and Mary Green, might be amazed to see the technological changes in today's library, but they might not be surprised at the popularity of the library nor at how enjoyable a job the Trustees have.
"It is a privilege working with everyone," says Ryder. "What I get out of the position is out of proportion to what I put in."
Stevens agrees, adding, "These are intelligent people and fun to be around."
Conti said he is thrilled at how busy the library is. "We have a library that is used. I consider us blessed that the town supports us."
© 2007 The