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The Yankee Express

Dudley’s library faces decertification because of budget cuts

Jun 08, 2023 05:35PM ● By Chuck Tashjian

Children’s Story Time at the library in Dudley.


“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” Walter Cronkite.
“Civilized nations build libraries; lands that have lost their soul close them down.” Toby Forward. “A library is a place to learn what teachers were afraid to teach you.” Alan Dershowitz
Will it be quality of life or your tax bill?   On June 12th, Dudley voters will be deciding their town’s future funding of not only the Pearl L. Crawford Memorial Library but also for that of many other town departments including their regional school system.
“All town departments have been directed to cut 10% of their current budgets,” said Drusilla Carter, director of the Crawford Library. “Our town administrator has advised each department to prepare for 10% cuts. For us, that means a $39,000 cut combined with an additional loss of $25,000 from state funding bringing the total to $64,000. The $25,000 funding reduction from the state is due to Massachusetts’ library funding mandates.” These current mandates refer to a 2.5% annual increase that every town’s budget must include for local libraries. The library will now automatically lose $25,000 of state funding and become decertified. A huge hit for those who come through the shining doors of knowledge in Dudley. What a shame. There are over 100 patrons daily using the library’s educational displays of excellence. 
Yes, there will always be Google and our smartphones and tablets but there will never be a substitute for educational gatherings of young and old at a central location that does not discriminate by any category. There is no substitute for asking a library staff member how to find, how to search, how to locate a subject of your choice. None! As a child, I spent my summers at my local library. I would borrow three to four books weekly. Mystery novels, adventure tales, you name it. My parents encouraged me to take advantage of our exceptional town resource and my bike and I knew the way to our library blindfolded. My grades in school were excellent, spelling bees were my forte where I competed with a few others for the championship title. All this, including my love of writing, I attribute to my library visits and the adventures my books and imagination took me on from one end of the world to the other.
Because of the impending decertification, Dudley library patrons are looking at loss of use for their library privileges at all other libraries in the regional system too. No book borrowing, no material borrowing, no nothing. “I know these are tough decisions to make,” said Director Carter, “but we wish it wasn’t our library that will suffer. Because of the way the state regulations are set up, even if we fund-raised or accepted donations, the town of Dudley would not meet its state requirements for library funding obligations.” There are 369 town libraries in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Dudley will no longer be a state-certified library. There are requirements for basic services and hours open to the public. 
Ms. Carter has drafted her library budget and her staff thus far will not see their hours slashed. Utility costs have risen dramatically. Many of their materials and supplies will be severely affected. Building maintenance will be cut including simple but very important things like plumbing and/or electrical repairs, IT costs for computer maintenance and upkeep that so many local citizens depend on, staff professional development courses will be deleted, simple office supplies like paper, staples, rubber bands, everyday items, will be eliminated. “We’ll still be here to help people,” said Ms. Carter, “but we’ll have fewer resources is what it boils down to. Our Friends of the Library will be called on for even greater assistance and they do so much for us currently. Their volunteerism is so valuable. Our endowment from the Crawford family limits our usage of those funds as they cover programs only. This all depends on our local citizenry. Many patrons are greatly upset by the upcoming budget cuts.” Drusilla Carter is certainly correct. The impact of these cuts will be felt for years to come. The lack of services and library decertification will surely be a black eye for Dudley.    
The fact is that the town of Dudley has one of the lowest tax rates in Worcester County. In fact, besides Royalston (population: 1,276) with a tax rate of 9.79 mill, Dudley (population: 11,802) has the second lowest tax rate in the county at 10.16 mill vs. an average Worcester County tax rate of 14.42 mill. An interesting statistic indeed. Will citizens, young and old alike, unite to save their local library and town budget or does the usual apathy reign as it does for so many of us today? Please get involved Dudley citizens, show your true colors, and fund your local library and police and fire and highway departments. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it. YOU are the factor! Monday, June 12, is your day to make a difference. The Municipal Center polls will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.