Nearly 40 residents attended the meeting — a rarity for the Pittsfield Town Council — and advocated for the library as a community pillar.
The Pittsfield Public Library at 110 Library St. in Pittsfield. Credit: Courtesy of Mark Schumpert

PITTSFIELD, Maine — The Town Council will consider whether expanding the Pittsfield Public Library’s budget for services or hours is feasible after residents packed the council chambers in support of the library at a meeting Tuesday night.

Nearly 40 residents attended the meeting — a rarity at Pittsfield Town Council meetings — and advocated for the library as a longtime pillar of the community, applauding and even high-fiving each other after sharing their comments.

The library’s budget first came before the council during a meeting Oct. 18, when members discussed ways to cut costs — like reduced Saturday hours to save on heat and electricity, for example — but didn’t make any decisions. Townspeople, fearing the unintended consequences of decreasing services or hours, turned out in force to support the library and Director Holly Williams.

Rural libraries not only offer books, but also internet access, after-school programs and other services. A loss of hours at the Pittsfield library would reduce the availability of those services to residents.

Residents asked councilors not to alter the budget or increase it. Saturday hours should be left alone or expanded, especially for working families who can’t visit during the week, they said.

When it came time to discuss the library’s budget, Williams turned the floor over to residents.

“Holly [Williams] has done an amazing job since taking over as head librarian,” said Howard Margolskee, a local doctor and former councilor. “She deserves full support. This seems to be the best turnout that we’ve had for a council meeting in years.”

It’s prudent and wise that the council review every department and where the town can save money and use it effectively, he said. 

Councilors will treat each department equally during the budget process, which hopefully will result in little, if any, tax increase to residents, Mayor Michael Cianchette said.

While growing up in Pittsfield, Emma Dorman said there wasn’t much for children to do, but the library was a safe place to spend time, and she doesn’t want to see its budget slashed.

“That’s where a lot of the kids in my generation and future generations learned to read and to have an appreciation for literature,” said Dorman, who has lived in Pittsfield for 21 years. “If we lose that, it will be so detrimental to this community.”

Former councilor Amanda Collamore — who represents Pittsfield, Clinton and Detroit in the Maine House of Representatives — said the library is important to her family, especially her son, whose best friend is Williams. 

Collamore wants to see the library’s hours extended because she works during the week and often is making up work on Saturday. When Collamore has internet issues at home, she reserves a small room at the library to connect to meetings and complete her work, she said, suggesting the facility be given a bigger budget so it could be open more hours.

Other residents weighed in, sharing fond memories of the library and considering it a major reason they chose to live in Pittsfield. One man, who moved his family from a small town outside Foxborough, Massachusetts, to Pittsfield 16 years ago, said he was experiencing deja vu at the meeting because it reminded him of his former community, where budget cuts spread through various departments and schools.

The council should not go after the community’s fundamental building blocks, which includes the library, he said. 

During the budget workshop later in the evening, councilors considered whether to approve a $219,512 budget, slightly more than the proposed $216,978 they looked at last month and accounts for anticipated higher energy costs, among other items, but not the library.

Only fixed costs — heat and electricity, building maintenance and staff salaries — have increased in the last 20 years, Williams said last week

Councilor Lindsay Holmstrom proposed leaving it to Williams to tell the council about her top request, whether that’s adjusting hours or improving services with new books and materials, and the associated costs. 

Williams was surprised to be asked about growing the library’s budget. She has never asked for more funding because it was always discouraged, she said. But she’d like another $6,000, which would provide an extra $500 a month toward increasingly popular ebooks.

Feedback from residents shows potential opportunities for growth within the library budget, and Williams needs time to be thoughtful about putting together options, Holmstrom said.

Councilors tabled the library’s budget and will revisit it later this month.