April 19, 2018

MA PL Closes After Tax Override Failure

By LJ Staff

Though the Hampden Public Library (HPL), MA, has operated since 1891, it closed June 30 after citizens failed to approve a $108,290 operating budget. The library’s FY06 budget, as well as those for a senior center and the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, comprised the $584,796 override ballot that needed approval in order to raise property taxes more than 2.5 percent over the previous year’s amount. Town officials "took a chance" on offering the three popular services as a way of seeking victory, said John Ramsay, regional administrator of the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System. The gamble failed, as 56% of the voters opposed it.

Ramsey, present at the June 30 closing-day rally, said that several hundred library supporters showed up. Some were handing out flyers announcing a September 21 meeting, the beginning of a grass-roots effort to reopen the facility. Neighboring libraries were notified by Ramsay that they weren’t obligated to offer borrowing privileges, and they unanimously decided to discontinue service in order to increase pressure for local action. A petition asking for another override ballot this year will be presented at the September town meeting. In a town of 5,137, HPL almost 3500 library cards were issued, plus 650 nonresident cards. It was open five days a week for a total of 35 hours. The staff included a full-time MLS librarian and five part-timers, including a children’s librarian and a YA librarian.