, Gloucester, MA


January 17, 2013

Editorial: Boost for library a classic use of free cash dollars

For nearly six years, Gloucester’s Sawyer Free Library — undoubtedly one of the city’s busiest yet underrated resources — has been walking a tightrope, relying on the state library board’s waivers to remain part of the inter-library loan network because its city funding has been below the state certification threshold.

Thankfully, those days may soon be gone. Through the staff addition of assistant director Freyja Sanger, a technology expert newly arrived from a library post in Tewskbury, and Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s proposed allocation of $50,371 from the city’s $4.8 million fiscal 2012 free cash kitty, the city is poised to finally boost the city’s library spending to a level that matches the state’s bottom line for full certification.

That indeed should bring a sense of relief to Library Director Carol Gray, new board president Scott Memhard, and the library’s many users, who should never again have to worry about a lost waiver sending the Sawyer Free back to the “pre-Internet days,” as Gray described that prospect, if it ever came to pass.

In the wake of November’s city record free cash certification, some of the mayor’s critics noted that, while a firm free cash figure indeed signifies a series of stable fiscal policies, a one-year free cash bonanza of $4.8 million could also be seen as underbudgeting. And the city’s library funding may have been a classic case of that.

But while various city departments have lined up for a slice of additional free cash dollars — notably, the city school district, which is in line to get more than $600,000 — steering more dollars into the Sawyer Free Library may be the best use of the fiscal 2012 surplus to date.

With approximately 140,000 books and other forms of media – with computers that provide important Internet access to those who do not have them at home, and with educational programs that serve children and adults alike — the city’s library is perhaps Gloucester’s most popular and important facility.

In that vein, officials are wise to use Gloucester cash infusion to bring it up to speed — and state certification — once and for all.

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