“People have been so desperate for books,” stated Susan Pizzolato, Mattapoisett Public Library Director, during the May 21 meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Trustees.
With the permission of the Friends of the Mattapoisett Public Library, Pizzolato made up give-away bags from books that under normal circumstances would have been sold at the monthly library book sale. She then placed in each bag groupings of books sure to engage a book-deprived patron, marking on the outside of each paper bag hints as to what one might find inside such as New York Times bestsellers or children’s picture books. The bags were then placed invitingly outside on the library’s walkway. “Each bag contains three to six books,” Pizzolato said. She estimated that to date 80 bags of books some 400 volumes had been distributed in this fun manner.
In her report to the board, Pizzolato said that like other town departments she had been asked to trim back the library’s FY21 budget request. “The town administrator asked for a $20,000 cut,” she said. Those cuts she said would come from $10,000 in book purchases and $10,000 in staffing cuts. In spite of the cutbacks, Pizzolato said that state aid could be used for salaries as well as book purchases.
Given this challenging time, Massachusetts Library Association regulations on book purchasing has been relaxed due to library closures. Pizzolato said that under normal circumstances state aid would be reserved for programs and equipment. She also shared that raising money for book purchases was easier than staffing costs.
In April, Pizzolato said the library had received a grant of $13,500 for STEM and art-related materials. “The grant came just in the nick of time.”
Regarding COVID-19 economic implications for the library, Pizzolato said that MLA had advised libraries that whatever spending had been completed by March 10 would be sufficient for the balance of the fiscal year to meet spending regulations.
As for reopening the library, Pizzolato said, “We still don’t know what the requirements will be.” What she is sure of will be the necessity for additional spending for deep-cleaning services and disinfecting. “Staff will be responsible for high-volume touch areas throughout the day,” she said.
At the front desk on the main floor and in the children’s department, Pizzolato said plastic shields will be installed along with “a lot of rearranging for distancing… and the need to wear masks.” She believes that the library will have to control access to about 20-percent capacity. “We have to figure out how to move people through the library.”
Some rules are quite clear however. “Each staffer will use one computer (and) one phone, which will be disinfected when they leave,” Pizzolato shared.
Pizzolato said she wanted to be, “positive about you can do, not what you can’t do,” with respect to using library services. She said she would be using ORCTV to reach patrons who might not be using a computer. “We’ll have curbside delivery; people can call and we’ll get the books ready for them,” she said with a smile. And when can people except to go back into the library? “It will be down the road quite a bit before we have people back in the library.”
Regulations from various sources have presented a bit of a snag in preparing re-opening plans, Pizzolato stated. She said that she had received guidelines from the CDC, library association, Massachusetts Department of Health and the town. “I’m striving for one set of rules. There will be a lot of staff training,” she added.
Chairman William Osier reported that the search committee screening candidates for the soon-to-be-vacated, library-director position is down to two finalists. He expressed pleasure at the quality and quantity of the candidates who applied for consideration of the position. “It was a national search with a lot of fascinating candidates,” he said.
On Thursday, May 28, at 9:00 am, the two finalists, who were not named, will be interviewed by the trustees. That remote public meeting will be posted at mattapoisett.net.
Mattapoisett Library Board of Trustees
By Marilou Newell