To The Daily Sun,
An open letter to Richard Juve, of Meredith:
As I arrived at the Meredith Public Library promptly at 7:30 a.m. on this brisk autumnal morn, I was excited to spot a neat bundle of Laconia Daily Suns waiting for me on the steps. Would today be one of those magical days? Yes, there it is! A letter from Mr. Juve! As a librarian, I am inundated daily with books packed with facts and other frivolities. What a relief it is to read such flowery prose without fear of being stifled by reality. Let's take a deeper look at your letter now.
"Why do we need a new library when everyone has access to Google?"
This is a common question that sorely underestimates the duties of a librarian. The biggest part of my job is designing and implementing programs and classes for youths. I also work with local universities and organizations to provide college prep, home-school assistance, animal education, nutrition information, and more. Also, what about those members of our community outside of your coffee collective who do not have access to the internet in their homes? We are here to serve them, as well.
"When our cherished library is taken from us it will ... plunge our town into recession."
I assume you are referring to a near-decade-old report that asserts that downtown municipal buildings benefit nearby businesses. But as someone who works every day with the local population, I have to disagree. In my experience, patrons spend as little time in town as they can, as people have learned to avoid the heavy traffic and limited parking downtown. In fact, the people we see on a busy day are, I believe, actually hurting nearby businesses by taking up valuable parking spaces.
"Old people that cannot drive, will be unable to access the new library."
While beautiful, our library is hell to any person with any sort of mobility issues. The front steps are nearly impassable even to able-bodied patrons. There is no elevator in our seven-level building, so even once you're inside you're faced with the daunting number of stairs they must traverse in order to enjoy any of our services. In other words, anyone who cannot drive or has mobility issues already cannot access the library, so your assertion has no bearing.
"We already have a library at the elementary school. Open it for use during the summer."
Our head of circulation, Matthew Gunby, addressed this in a letter in June, when he wrote, "There is a legal component to school library usage that is in direct conflict with public library usage. A school is in loco parentis. The school becomes the parent while children are at school. It is a safe haven. Access to schools is restricted. Public libraries are not restricted. We do not screen who enters the public library. Anyone, regardless of their legal record, is allowed to use the library with no restriction. A school's need to keep students safe supersedes individual's privacy, while in a public library privacy is paramount."
"It (opening the school library for public use in the summer) is much cheaper than building a $7-million facility."
I bring this passage up only to correct your numbers. The quote we have received for building a new space is $5 million, not $7 million.
"It has got to be cheaper than hiring on additional library staff, a computer tech guy to manage the computers they will want, additional workers, expensive hospital insurance plans and pension plans."
There has never been any mention of or thought toward adding new staff. Also, we already have a talented tech librarian, our Assistant Director Chris Leland, who (in addition to maintaining all of our systems, both public and staff) runs regular tech classes both here and at the Community Center, and provides one-on-one tech support as well. In addition, are you insinuating that the current staff do not have insurance and retirement plans? Because all of our full-time staff already do. We are not volunteers, we are career professionals.
"A public-spirited foundation gave the library a cash infusion of over $70K to fix, repair and update the existing library and library trustees went and spent over $50K on a consultant to teach them how to close the library."
Here you are conflating two separate events. We received a generous grant that helped us pay for repairs to our roof, chimney, and gutters to keep our building safe while also keeping the facade historically authentic. This is one of the costs of having a library that is over 100 years old, and one that will continue to add up as long as we remain here.
"I'm not certain the library trustees are carrying out their fiduciary responsibilities. Has the generous donation of money been used as it was specifically directed and intended?"
As a public organization we are subject to audits just like any other town department, so all of the information you desire is readily available to you if you'd like to do some research.
Finally, I must address your use of the words "pirates" and "heist," and the assertion that we want to build an "empire." Your accusations of underhanded dealings and improper motivations have been a common theme throughout all of your letters, and I've had enough. I am very proud of the work that I do, and to be disparaged as some sort of criminal only looking for personal gain is very insulting. The entire point of the library building project is to provide our community with the best services possible while saving our town money in the long term. Please consider this before you write your next letter.
Before I end my letter, I would be remiss if I did not compliment your prose! While our adult writing group has recently fallen into disrepair, with National Novel Writing Month coming up and I think that with your help we can get a really great group together.
Head of Youth Services
Meredith Public Library