February 25, 2018

MA’s Game of Survival

By Kathy Ishizuka

Will the Haverhill (MA) Public Library get a waiver from the state library board so that it can continue receiving state funding and other services? Everyone in town is dying to know.

This isn’t the first tense moment for Haverhill. The library was spared from having to close its doors last summer, after the city slashed the library’s 2003 budget by 78 percent–from $1.3 million to $279,000. Haverhill was prepared to release all staff and shut down on August 15. But the library was saved when patrons and other supporters demonstrated before the city council and submitted petitions with more than 4,000 signatures defending the library. Then, just a day before the library was set to close, the city restored its budget to $1.1 million.

The move has kept the library operating, although weekly service has been reduced by 11 hours, and the staff of 35 is now down to nine. The problem now, however, is that the library’s budget appropriation falls short of the $1.3 million required to ensure state accreditation, which comes with $70,000 in aid. Whether the library’s fans can help it retain its accreditation status remains to be seen–the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners will vote on a waiver in February.