Ellsworth Public Library Director Amy Wisehart has resigned, citing stress over budget cuts. She will become director for the Northeast Harbor Library. FILE PHOTO

Ellsworth library director resigns

ELLSWORTH — Amy Wisehart began her tenure as library director in the summer of 2016. Now May 6 will be her last day, she notified the board of trustees on March 30, after she accepted the director position at the Northeast Harbor Library.

“It was a difficult decision,” she said. “I think there’s a lot that’s going well in Ellsworth. Our usage is increasing, we have an excellent staff, a supportive board and a wonderful community of library patrons.”

One area that has not gone as well is securing the library’s annual budget.

“The budget has been a challenge and has been a big source of stress,” Wisehart said.

With over half of active cardholders from nearby towns, the City Council had asked Wisehart and library trustees more than two years ago to secure additional revenue sources. The board initiated nonresident card fees and requested financial contributions from outlying towns, some of which passed at town meetings and many of which did not. That process was made more difficult because of COVID-19.

A $100,000 cut to the library’s requested appropriation by councilors in 2020 was replenished from the library’s capital improvement account. In 2021, the library used $60,000 in surplus funds, trimmed its hours and positions and implemented other cost-cutting measures to meet its budget after councilors again curtailed the library’s funding request.

For 2022, the library was out of ideas to offset the budget cut imposed by the City Council. The city will soon begin budget workshops.

“Another cut like that would be hard to sustain,” Wisehart told The American earlier this year.

Now, she said she’s looking forward to focusing less on finances and more on the range of topics library directors typically focus on.

“I love the Ellsworth community, and I have always worked to be a community-focused librarian,” she said. “The budget pressures in Ellsworth over many years have been very stressful, and I am looking forward to new opportunities in Northeast Harbor.”

She begins her new position on May 16.

Wisehart will still present the budget to City Council this spring.

“I’ve had some really positive conversations with individual city councilors this year,” she said. “I’m hopeful the City Council, as a whole, recognizes the value of the Ellsworth library to the community. I think they do. I would just hope they recognize that funding is an ongoing challenge.”

That challenge is well known to Council Chairman Dale Hamilton, for the library and all city departments. “We do it every year,” he said. “The council is responsible for reviewing the budget put forth by the city manager and trying to make decisions that collectively meet the needs of the city. That’s the process we’ve undertaken with all of the departments.”

Hamilton also recalled attending a library strategy meeting a few years back to look at options, including turning the library into a nonprofit. If that happened, the library could still receive city funds, he noted, as is the model the Bangor Public Library operates within. It could help answer the challenge of the city providing most of the funding for a service used by many Hancock County towns.

“From where I sit, that’s been the question I’ve proposed repeatedly: what structure works best? That’s what we’re trying to accomplish. It is a county service. How do we get it so there’s some shared responsibility around that [while] trying to create a budget that’s fair and equitable, especially for the citizens of Ellsworth.”

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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