The following letter to the editor appeared in the online edition of the Belmont Citizen Herald on March 11.
I’m writing to express my support for the override vote on April 6. In particular, I’m voting “yes” to maintain level services at one of our most widely used public buildings, the Belmont Public Library.
I’ve been involved with the library as a volunteer for a number of years. I chose the library as my civic focus because it’s a community resource available to everyone, offering free space and a myriad of resources for lifelong growth. In an education-focused town like Belmont, of course our library is heavily used. In 2019, the Belmont Library ranked No. 10 in circulation across the 370 public libraries in Massachusetts (including giant systems like Boston, Quincy, and Newton), circulated 650,000 items, and welcomed 1,000 visitors to the building each day! Two-thirds of Belmont residents have a library card, and 20,000 people attended the hundreds of concerts, book clubs, workshops and other programs offered at the library in 2019.
When the pandemic hit, the library staff quickly pivoted to take services online. They organized hundreds of online programs, expanded access to e-resources like OverDrive and Hoopla, provided information and recommendations virtually, and made electronic resources like Wi-Fi hotspots available to borrow. They even offered a “Bellhop” service, allowing patrons to receive personalized book suggestions from librarians. Belmont’s library was among the first in Massachusetts to reopen for in-person pickup.
So what will happen if the override fails? Budget cuts will impact three key components of library operations. To reduce staffing costs, the library will be open fewer hours, with weekend hours at risk. Weekends can be a key time for working families to use the library so they’ll likely feel that reduction most keenly. There will also be cuts in materials acquired — fewer books, databases, and digital resources. Lastly, cuts will be made to the building management budget. This will mean reduced building maintenance (and haven’t we done enough of that in Belmont?).
Of course, the library is only one of many elements of life in Belmont that will be impacted if the April override fails. But it’s one that is close to my heart and improves quality of life for residents of all ages. I hope you’ll join me in voting “yes” on April 6 to preserve library services, as well as so much more that is crucial to community life in Belmont.
Sally Martin, Oak Street