hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

December 6, 2012

Public library deserves public's support

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — What the staff at the public library is able to accomplish is close to amazing.

Workers handled the check out and return of more than 400,000 materials in the last year, everything from books to movies.

They run an extensive reference department, guiding people through periodicals, encyclopedias, computerized materials — even finding time to look up information for residents who call on the phone.

They watch over the library’s computer area, helping patrons and making sure young people don’t view inappropriate websites. They watch over the Special Collections Room, a treasure trove of photos, newspaper clippings and other materials that document Haverhill’s rich history.

They organize and schedule special events such as appearances by authors who do readings for the public and answer questions from people in the audience.

And they do who-knows-what-else is necessary to keep the building and its programs running.

All this after the staff suffered several cuts in recent years, as the city struggles with its finances.

Now the library is looking to the public for help. (See story, page 1.) It is a noble cause to consider.

Critics point out other city departments have also suffered deep cuts due to Haverhill’s financial constraints.

They are right. There has been plenty of pain to go around, enough to affect everyone.

Critics might also say other city departments are more essential to the public.

Residents need safe streets and fire protection more than they need books and movies. That’s a fact of life.

But people also need balance in life — literature and other culture to go along with protection and the other basics of life.

And what many people may not know is the library is actually a private, nonprofit organization that depends hot only on tax dollars, but accepts donations that help keep the operation that served 300,000 people in the last year running.

Library officials told Gazette reporter Alex Lippa that since 1881, residents and businesses in Greater Haverhill have donated, bequeathed and endowed money to the library.

Those officials have begun a new push to bring public attention to The Reader’s Fund, the account that holds those donations.

“To maintain the library’s history of excellence, your generous donation to The Reader’s Fund is needed now more than ever,’’ reads a prepared statement from the library.

Money is tight for so many of us, especially at holiday time, but the library is a cause worth considering, now or after the holidays have passed.

If the library is to thrive over time, it must be able count on the kind of public support it has received for the last 131 years.