Library turns page to new chapter with City
“We need to have an agreement that works for everybody.” The words of Holyoke City Attorney Al Wall seemed to be a consensus of all the Holyoke City Council and Heginbotham Library board members present at a special work session Monday, May 21, at City Hall.
After the library board presented a list of requests and updates at the Jan. 16 city council meeting, it’s been evident the two entities needed to clear up some communication and decide who is responsible for what at the City-owned library grounds.
Monday’s work session was a step in the right direction.
In the coming weeks, the library board will be working on what they would like to see addressed in an intergovernmental agreement with the City. They will also start compiling new budget requests for next year so they can take over some of the tasks that the City used to do, such as groundskeeping.
“I think it was a great meeting,” said Kevin Scott, Holyoke mayor pro tem acting in place of an absent Mayor Orville Tonsing.
Library falls under state statutes
Wall gave some background on Holyoke’s library. It first started in 1930 when a bond issue raised funds to build a building. A mill levy was also set for annual money to keep the library running.
Currently, the City gets $16,000-$18,000 from the mill levy. Things have gotten more expensive over the years, said Wall, and when the library only gets about $16,000, “you have a big shortfall.”
Most small towns have libraries like Holyoke, and they all need money, he added.
All libraries in Colorado fall under state statutes. Wall told the board that the statutes give them custody of the building and control of the funds once the budget is set.
He suggested the board do some research on asking the voters for a mill increase or on applying for grants that could help fund some of the library’s needs.
Library board president Mary Austin said it’s not the board’s desire at this point to campaign for a mill levy or tax increase. She said they can work with the librarian to get more grants, but she noted that grants can only cover so much.
City asks library to take more control of daily tasks
“What do you want to see come out of our meeting?” library board member Susie Vasa asked the city council Monday, noting that the board simply wants to know what is expected of them.
“For you to take control of the library, and if you need help, come to us,” said Scott.
“Take charge of it, please,” added City Superintendent Mark Brown. He said he would like the library to be in control of its own groundskeeping, lawn mowing, snow removal and minor maintenance. It would be helpful to take those tasks away from City employees and for the library to hire their own workers, added Brown.
“If you can hire a groundskeeper, that would eliminate 95 percent of the problems there for me,” said Brown.
He mentioned that he would be willing to come up with an agreement for the library to take advantage of fertilizer and other supplies that the City buys in bulk.
The current method of using City employees at the library will continue through the end of 2018. The library board will need to consider how much it will take to hire a groundskeeper when they work on next year’s budget. A preliminary budget is due Oct. 1.
“The library has a high standard,” said Brown. “I’m not worried about who you hire.”
The board will also need to budget for larger projects, such as landscaping and updates to the building. Once money is budgeted for, it will be the library’s task to find bids and complete those projects.
The board plans to work with City Clerk and Treasurer Kathy Olofson on the budget plans. Additionally, Olofson currently does the bookkeeping — payroll, paying bills, etc. — for the library, and the board wants to continue with that arrangement.
Agreements need to suit everyone
After the board makes some notes about what they want to take control of, they will take them to Brown for consideration for an updated intergovernmental agreement between the City and the library board.
“I think everyone would feel comfortable if we had a new agreement that spells everything out,” said Vasa.
Agreements have to be like a suit — comfortable and not too tight, said Wall.
“Communication is going to be a big thing,” said councilmember Steve Moore. He said that when the board presented a list of requests in January, “I just felt blindsided.”
“We take responsibility for that,” said Vasa, noting they plan to have board members present at more of the council meetings so the library can give reports to the City.
The last few months have been a good opportunity for the library board to ask, “How can we make it better?” said Austin.
In addition to communication with the council, the board also wants to increase communication with the community. They plan to do a survey asking about ways they can improve.
— Should the library update its catalog system to include electronic books?
— What library programs do people want to see?
— What extended open hours would be most helpful?
Heginbotham home presents unique challenges for library
A unique challenge to the library is that for nearly 50 years it has been housed in the former residence of Will Heginbotham at 539 S. Baxter Ave., a building that is now on the historic registry.
No one at the meeting presented an objection to keeping the library at the Heginbotham location, despite its challenges.
“What a privilege it is to host the library there!” said Austin. She admitted they don’t have it as easy as other libraries do. The library’s heritage is in that building, and the board does not take that lightly, she said. “How priceless the building is — but it’s also pricey.”
Austin emphasized the board is willing to work with the council to help maintain the building. She also noted how fortunate the library is to have assistance from the Heginbotham Trust for certain projects.
A representative from the Colorado Library Consortium, Sara Wright, was a guest at the work session. Her motto for libraries is, “We share.” Even though all libraries are seeing a decrease in circulation, it’s not the format that’s important, it’s the content, said Wright. Libraries are a place for communities to gather and one of the only places that provides free services to everyone, she said. And that’s something special.