FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — A library in Fort Fairfield that some thought would not retain its state funding without a director will retain its Maine sponsorship.
The Town Council voted 3 to 2 in November to terminate the full-time library director position and instead rely on two part-time librarians as part of budget cuts.
The decision appeared to violate the Maine Library Commission rule that all libraries must have a permanent, paid director. Those who do not can be in jeopardy of losing state-sponsored services, including e-books, interlibrary loans and online research.
The council’s choice and the potential consequences it faced highlight the difficult position many small towns find themselves in when it comes to balancing finances.
Former Library Director Jennifer Gaenzle also was concerned that the reduced budget — $49,059 instead of the $135,000 approved in June — would threaten the library’s ability to operate. Gaenzle stepped down on Nov. 28.
But since November, the town has found out that the library will maintain state sponsorship after further conversations with the Maine Library Commission about the specific situation, librarian Lynn Cote said.
“We’re able to operate as long as we have either a director or librarians on staff,” Cote said, while addressing the library’s board of trustees during its Dec. 29 meeting.
Marijke Visser, director of library development for the Maine Library Commission, said that although having a full-time director is the ideal scenario, the commission recognizes that the changes to Fort Fairfield’s library are meant to be temporary.
“We understand that this is a fluid situation,” Visser said, referring to the town’s financial difficulties.
To save on heating and fuel costs, the library has reduced its hours to Thursday through Saturday, eliminating two days from its schedule. Even with those reductions, the library remains successful thanks to community support, Cote said.
At least five residents have expressed interest in volunteering and others have offered to host toddler activities and develop a community garden in the spring to help make up for the budget cuts to the library.
Cote and fellow librarian Barb Wells-Alexander also hope to launch a monthly local artist exhibit in February or March.
In the meantime, they and the board of trustees will work to certify the library’s status as a nonprofit. Though the state approved the library’s application, they are waiting on federal recognition.
As a tax-exempt nonprofit, the library would be able to collect no more than $50,000 per year in donations and grants.
The next board of trustees meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26, in the library’s community room.