Library trustees make the case for 'yes' vote

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No longer simply a repository for books, libraries are seeking out reinvention as a means to better serve a more multi-faceted purpose in response to the changing cultural, demographic, and technological trends. Right here in Manchester, this evolution, or revolution, in the concept of a community center library, is being shaped and molded in front of our eyes, creating a new 21st-century library experience that is already paying back enormous dividends to our Town.

With two years of operations now under our belts, we can more accurately appreciate the degree to which the Manchester Community Library has been utilized—last year we logged more than 60,000 visits through the door. Townspeople of all ages, and with a variety of needs, are using the Library in record numbers and are asking more and more from us. We are responding to the increased demand with a modest increase in our appropriation request to keep pace with next year's operations. The bulk of the increase is a function of augmenting existing resources and personnel to meet the ever-growing demand for our services, which have greatly exceeded even the most optimistic projections. The Library trustees are sensitive and considerate to incremental demands placed on the average household, and have constructed a lean operational budget that places the majority of the increase on sources other than the taxpayers.

What's the benefit received to support the Library with tax dollars? We believe every tax dollar paid to support the Library is money well spent. With their "free" memberships, taxpayers can receive value-added benefits depending on how the Library is utilized. People who may not have used a library in years are discovering they are using the Manchester Community Library in a variety of new ways. People are using the Library as a technology center. Subscribing to Comcast Wi-Fi alone can cost $45 a month. To buy a laptop or desktop computer can run $1,000. At the Library, for no fee or purchase, people come in, log on to one of 13 public-use computers, and connect to the world. Last year, Library computers were used 6,384 times, and the free Wi-Fi was accessed 10,435 times by townspeople bringing in their own digital devices.

Many people in our community need help learning the basics of computers; to pay for private tech support can cost $50 an hour. This is a barrier to many low-income and senior citizens who most need assistance to stay connected and better equipped to compete in this digital age. Last year, 383 people received personalized one-on-one instruction where they learned new skills at their own pace, with a knowledgeable and patient library-provided instructor. Although this teaching service is free to members, the costs for the tech tutor position and the wear-and-tear on our technology are not free for the Library. Taxpayer support makes this service possible.

People are using the Library as a civic, cultural, and entertainment center. Attending engaging programs can be out of reach for many. Outside of our Library, many lectures or other programs can cost up to $20 per person. Library programs like the recent PBS Film and Discussion series with Norman Lear, our First Wednesdays lecture series, the Greatest Generation film series, and our ARTSalon series enlighten and entertain those on a tight budget. Programs on health, farm-to-table, financial, and workforce topics inform community members at no cost. Our children's programming provides educational and fun activities while building critical literacy skills for our youngest residents. Again, Library programs may be free to attend but they are not free to present.

And, people are still using the Library to borrow books and materials that also include audiobooks, e-books, magazines, and newspapers. The value from tax dollars paid relative to what is received in return can add up quickly: RedBox costs $7.50 to rent 5 DVDs at a time; a monthly subscription to Audible is $14.95 to listen to audiobooks in the car; just one hardcover book would cost $25 to purchase; a single magazine subscription can run $80 a year. Manchester taxpayers receive access to these value-added benefits through the amount that appears on their tax bill—their membership "fee". And 1,443 non-residents pay their fair share for their Library memberships through an annual non-resident fee.

The Board of Trustees and Staff strive to make the Manchester Community Library a community-gathering place, open to all, providing resources for personal enrichment and growth. We welcome your suggestions and hope you'll come and check out all that's happening at your public library, and join us as we continue to respond to the ever-changing needs of our community. Thank you for your continued support. And please remember to cast your vote at the polls on March 7th.

Board of Trustees: Mary Blair, Patrick Bernal, Stephen Drunsic, Martha Heilemann, Alex Heintz, Tony Hoyt, Susie Hunter, Allison Mason, Linda McKeever, Christine Miles, Linda Oskam, Mike Powers, Dave Quesnel, Kyle Ramsvig, and Nancy Wolf. Staff: Jennifer Amatruto, Betsy Bleakie, Donna Dresser, Lindsey Harty, Janet Kleinberg, Kellie Morrison, Stephen Niles, Cheryl Stillson, Jackie Swanson, and Cindy Waters

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