The Block Island Times

Library trustees discuss user fees and opening on Sundays

By Gloria S. Redlich | Jan 15, 2014

At the Jan. 7 meeting of the Island Free Library Board of Trustees, the members discussed a variety of issues, including opening on Sundays and whether fees should be applied to for-profit businesses that use library facilities.

The board discussed how to determine a reasonable fee for persons using library meeting rooms for a profit-making venture. “When it’s not a library program and people use the building for profit, [our policy says] we may charge a fee. There’s an established policy. I’d like it to be revised,” Library Director Kristin Baumann said.

“I wonder whether we could investigate what other libraries do,” said member Charlotte Herring.

Board member Dr. Janice Miller said, “If it’s a commercial project, people expect to pay [something].” Baumann saw it as something of a “dilemma, because our programs are generally for the benefit of the community… There’s something to be said for being able to use your library.”

She added, “The use of the library is so positive now, I wouldn’t want to change that sense of [easy access] to the facility.” Miller cited costs of maintenance and electricity as expenses that commercial users should share in defraying.

Baumann suggested asking that such individuals or groups apply to and work through the Friends of the Library. The issue was continued for further discussion.


Sunday openings

In another matter, Baumann brought up Sunday openings, for which she needed to fill out and submit a waiver to the state library association. Since a staff member would be paired with a volunteer each Sunday for three or four months (from January through March or April), she asked the Trustees to support her in an increase of wages to time-and-a-half for those staff members working select Sundays. The board voted to do so.

Baumann reminded the board that the usual Sunday closings were directly attributable to a town budgetary decision several years ago to cut funding for a part-time library position.

Shelving books

Baumann introduced members to the concept of Glades, a system of shelving books that varies somewhat from the traditional Dewey Decimal System. In doing so, Baumann may be bringing the island library into an ongoing dialogue taking place at libraries across the country.

The issue seems to be whether classification and shelving of books may be done in ways that are more “user friendly” than the strictly numerical Dewey system. As Baumann described it, under Glades, books would be arranged into categories designed thematically, with a view to being more easily accessible to library patrons.

For example, she pointed out the public library in Darien, Connecticut had instituted the new approach, listing books under such headings as Body and Soul for religion, philosophy, self-help and health, child-care and parenting. Another heading was Nature, bringing together such disciplines as science, math and animals. The new classifications did include parenthetical listings of the Dewey identifying numerals.

Baumann admitted the changing process could create “a revolution in how we put books on the shelves, gathering like subjects and themes together into genres.” She added, “We already use genres in the DVD room.”

Dr. Miller felt the change might precipitate a sense of loss for library browsers, especially young people. She worried that it would diminish some of the “excitement of looking for books in a library,” and eliminate “the opportunity for youngsters to explore the stacks,” that the Dewey Decimal system provided.

Though cautioning that the idea was just in exploratory stages, Baumann noted that she and some library staff were planning to visit Darien within the next few months. She felt it was an area “I think we should learn more about.”


Baumann also reported on the need to update the library’s five-year plan, outlining how the director, staff and trustees planned to go about upholding its goals. She read the first prominent objective as ensuring “the building is functional, accessible and clean so that people have a positive and rewarding experience in the library.”

Reporting on financial standing, Treasurer Bill McKernan said, “There was very little activity in November,” and final numbers for December were not available in time for the meeting.

The next meeting is set for Jan. 28.

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