The Block Island Times

Library trustees chip away at budget

By Gloria S. Redlich | Feb 05, 2014

As most agencies and boards around the island are doing, the Board of Trustees of the Island Free Library pored over elements of the budget it must present to the town by Feb. 7.

Library Director Kristin Baumann pointed out that according to union guidelines, salaries would automatically rise by three percent. Other consistently high-ticket items continue to be electricity and fuel oil, although she said she and the staff had been working to reduce consumption and lower costs.

Baumann said a fixed cost is membership in the Ocean State Library Consortium, which promotes sharing of library resources across the state. In some areas, Baumann noted costs had been eliminated, citing a fence which no longer needs to be budgeted for because it will be funded and built by the National Hotel, an abutter.

This arrangement was hammered out, Baumann said, at a meeting with representatives from the hotel and with members of the Historic District Commission. It was agreed that there would be an accessible walkway and a gate that would be left open in winter. She hoped this change would “leave a little leeway, perhaps … to increase the book budget a few hundred each year.”

Other potential expenses noted by trustees involved repairs and landscaping; much seemed to depend on whether or not building a fence in front of the library was advisable. Considerable discussion focused on whether or not “Education and Training” should be a regular line item in the budget. In the past, monies directed to that category were drawn from in-house library funds.

Treasurer Bill McKernan said, “A library with a staff the size of ours should have a larger education and training budget.” John Warfel agreed it should be a line item, pointing out that the public should become aware of library priorities. In the end the group agreed it was important to create the line item.

Trustees President Connie LaRue asked Baumann if she needed another part-time staff member, but Baumann said it wouldn’t be necessary “at this time.” She added there were several volunteers who worked with staff on Sundays.

Member Janice Miller suggested that when it was time to go to the town with the budget, “We should let them know that we’ve brought in a great [deal] of funding.” Former Library Director Lonni Todd, who attended the meeting, added, “At the time of the town budget, as others have done in the past, you should write a letter — with bullets highlighting what you’ve done — to distribute.”

In the end, though still without final figures on salaries, the group voted to approve an amended budget that, according to Baumann, would come in lower than last year’s, which was $468,253.

In reporting on the Friends of the Library, Baumann said they’d bought the library a membership in VillageSoup, an online company that facilitates the publication of newspapers — print and online editions — which it does for The Block Island Times.

Baumann said, “It offers us a page on The Block Island Times website, and we will feed into and be able to reach a different population than through the [local] Block Island Bulletin Board. We can reach people off island.” The library will also be able to post events directly to the online calendar, news briefs to the home page and members’ stories.

Clearly very pleased with the recent library program on indigenous author Louise Erdrich’s novel “Love Medicine,” Baumann reported to the trustees, “The Big Read was a big hit!” (See related article.)

At the end of the meeting, the trustees went into executive session to discuss an evaluation of the job performance of the director.

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