hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 26, 2013

City must strive to continue Sunday library openings

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — It’s high time.

Last weekend, the city’s public library reopened on Sunday for the first time in 10 years. (See story, Page 1.)

Since 2003, the building has been closed every Sunday, arguably the day the public would use it most.

Like so many issues facing Haverhill and other communities these days, it came down to money. Mayor James Fiorentini said the city simply did not have the cash to keep the building open seven days a week, so Sunday was the odd day out.

Meanwhile, students who were busy all other days of the week with classes and sports and other extracurricular activities were unable to use the library’s resources on Sundays — the one day they might be free to dig into a research project, perhaps the one day a parent was free from work to drive them there.

The library computer stations sat empty. The reference desk was quiet. One of the city’s greatest resources was dormant on days when many people could have put it to good use.

Then came state Rep. Brian Dempsey to the rescue. He was able to use his influence as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee to bring extra state money to the city. Haverhill received a total of $2.4 million in additional aide money, and enough of it was channeled to the library to allow for the Sunday openings.

A few flexes of Dempsey’s political muscle has reopened the library’s doors on Sundays, which is especially important during the school year, as library Director Carol Verny told reporter Shawn Regan.

“This is typically what libraries do as kids have homework assignments and parents work and might not be able to visit the library during the week,” Verny said. “Sunday is often the busiest day of the week at libraries across the country.”

During last Sunday’s reopening, it was appropriate that organizers held a moment of silence in memory of Dempsey’s father, who died a few days earlier at age 84. It was fitting because of the younger Dempsey’s role in getting the money for the Sunday hours, but more importantly because of the elder Dempsey’s history with the library. He drove the library’s bookmobile for 26 years until he retired in 1998.

Mayor James Fiorentini has said the city has enough money to keep the library open on Sundays through May, near the end of the school year.

That leaves the city, its Statehouse representatives and everyone else involved with the challenge of finding a way to make Sunday openings happen most months of every year. That must be a priority.

The public depends on it.

The education of many students depends on it.