Bennington Free Library’s town funding to increase by 5 percent
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 27,2014
BENNINGTON — Looking to its future, the Bennington Free Library got good news from the Select Board, which allocated $387,600 for the library this year, but bad news when administrators found they had to delay a roof repair project and decline a state grant.
The library is one of a handful of agencies in which funding requests are added directly into the town budget and not voted individually at town meeting.
In 2013, voters approved a municipal budget which contained an appropriation of $369,150 for the library. The new budget, which has not yet been officially approved by the Select Board, increased that appropriation by $18,450, or 5 percent.
Lynne Fonteneau McCann, director of the library, said the extra money is needed to increase some staff hours. She declined to provide details because she hasn’t yet discussed the proposed changes with the staff members involved.
The library increased the services it offers in 2013, adding wireless Internet access to its visitors and switching to fiber-optic cables to make the Internet access it offers through personal computers faster.
This month, the library became a member of the Catamount Library Network, a consortium that includes libraries in Rutland, Brattleboro and Springfield.
“That’s going to bring a lot more accessibility to our patrons to other library catalogues. We have a shared catalogue. We were the sixth library and there are a couple more that have just jumped on so I think very quickly, most of the publics (libraries) in the state are going to be part of the consortium,” said Fonteneau McCann.
Through the Catamount network, patrons will be able to borrow books from other libraries.
While she said the increase the library was asking for was not expected to bring a host of new services, Fonteneau McCann said she believed it showed that Select Board members recognized that Vermont libraries are typically underfunded.
“Certainly, I’m very appreciative of that. I think we have a good board. I think they really understand the value that the library brings to the community and they’re doing their best to see that we get the resources that we need to continue and expand as we can,” she said.
The Bennington Free Library has high circulation and visitor numbers and last year added 650 new patrons, growing the number of library card-carrying patrons which was already exceeded 9,000.
The library has meeting rooms, which are rented out for as little as $10 for nonprofits, that were used by more than 50 different organizations. Programming takes place for people “from the cradle to the grave,” from reading for very young children to a large-print computer terminal for senior citizens.
One benefit library patrons are unlikely to see this year is a new roof. Earlier this month, the state announced that the library had been awarded a Historic Preservation Grant but Fonteneau McCann said the library would have to turn down the grant.
Library staff had applied for two grants which would have paid for a new roof but they didn’t win the larger grant of $100,000 from the Gladys Brooks Foundation so Fonteneau McCann said they would decline the $20,000 grant from the state.
The Bennington Free Library is housed in two buildings, one from 1865 and another from 1935. Fonteneau McCann said there has been work done on the roofs but they have never been replaced.