GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 16, 2013

A lift for the library

Added city dollars aimed at certification

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

---- — Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Tuesday she is asking the City Council to appropriate $50,371 from the city’s free cash reserve of $4.8 million to lift the funding for the Sawyer Free Library above the state certification threshold, and assure the facility’s permanent participation in the crucial Inter-Library Loan System.

The busiest municipal facility and the city’s intellectual hub, the Sawyer has been granted a series of waivers in lieu of certification since 2007.

The waivers allow the Sawyer, which has approximately 140,000 books and other forms of expression on its shelves, to draw from the 28 libraries within NOBLE — or the North of Boston Library Exchange — whose members also can draw upon a web of resources beyond NOBLE including academic institutions.

Losing certification and its waiver — a step the state Board of Library Commissioners has taken, albeit infrequently, to sanction municipalities for failing to provide support for their libraries — would yank the Sawyer back to “pre-Internet days,” said Sawyer Director Carol Gray.

If approved by the council, the free cash appropriation, together with $54,408 approved by the council last spring for fiscal 2013 for an assistant director, would lift total funding for the Sawyer above the state’s threshold for certification. The Sawyer was appropriated a budget of $774,846 by the council last spring.

Freyja Sanger, a technology expert who helped the Tewksbury Public Library develop its first website for mobile devices, has joined the Sawyer Free Library as its first assistant library director since 2007, Gray and Scott Memhard, president of the library’s board, announced.

Sanger fills a position left vacant by budget cuts six years ago that led to its decertification by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Since then, the library has had to repeatedly seek waivers to continue in a program that lets Gloucester residents borrow from other libraries.

The library director since 2007, Gray said Sanger’s hiring is part of the library’s efforts to offer Gloucester residents 21st-century technology, including access to e-books via devices such as tablets, e-readers and mobile phones. Sanger also will oversee daily operations and the reference desk.

Kirk said she is responding to the council’s request for a comprehensive proposal for the use of the city’s free cash reserve, and will issue the proposal in the council report at the end of the week for next Tuesday’s council hearing, but wanted to highlight the relatively small but important allocation to the library in a separate announcement.

“The Sawyer Free Library is a community gem that gets tremendous use,” said Kirk in an email. “We are so pleased that the city has recovered enough from its own fiscal cliff that we are able to take it off waiver status and properly fund it in a sustainable manner going forward.”

The Sawyer has issued more than 18,000 cards and averages more than 150,000 visits a year or about 500 visits a day, Gray said.

Having started here on Jan. 7, Sanger came to the Sawyer from the Tewksbury Public Library. She previously worked at the Rockland Memorial Library and the Berkshire Athenaeum, the public library in Pittsfield.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston. She has also served as a software testing and technical documentation consultant to Plymouth Rocket, Inc., a company that develops software applications for public libraries.

As head reference librarian in Tewksbury, Sanger helped develop a mobile website for the library that lets library patrons search the library catalog, download e-books and perform other functions from their smartphones and tablets.

Along with books, audio materials and movie DVDs, the Sawyer Free Library maintains extensive archives related to Gloucester history and civic life, and through inter-library loans provides readers each year with thousands of books and other materials held by other libraries.

Memhard, the Cape Pond Ice president who succeeded Joan Ciolino this month as president of the library’s board of directors, said Sanger’s hiring was made possible by additional funding in the city budget this fiscal year, initiated by Mayor Carolyn Kirk and enhanced by further action by the City Council.

“These moves bring the library closer to no longer having to seek waivers to gain our state certification,” Memhard said.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.