One size does not fit all on library funding

Dear Editor:

Last week, The American brought news of the Ellsworth City Council’s discussion with the Ellsworth Public Library to seek less costly funding means for the city. There are a few important facts that need emphasis here.

1) Ellsworth is a “service center community” as defined by the Maine State Municipal and Planning Assistance Program. This means Ellsworth is a community where many of us are likely to seek out things such as medical services, shop for clothes and groceries or visit a cultural institution. This role brings both challenges (increased infrastructure and funding for services) and benefits (priority consideration for state capital investment and increased traffic to nearby businesses). An example of a benefit that the library brings to Ellsworth is that patrons who use the Ellsworth Library, which acts as much-needed “anchor store” for the downtown, are likely to patronize nearby businesses during their visit.

2) The Ellsworth Public Library already employs one of the most diversified municipal funding models in Maine. The library currently seeks funding from 18 nearby communities that do not have full-service libraries of their own. This is a substantial undertaking and an important attempt to offset the fiscal burden to Ellsworth taxpayer.

3) We encourage citizens and councilors to avoid the understandable temptation to compare one community’s funding model with another. What works in one community would quite possibly fail in another.

Hancock County is fortunate to have many vibrant public libraries, each working to deliver excellence to their patrons. Every community within the county that is fortunate to have a public library has arrived at different diversified means for funding their libraries. One thing each of these libraries has in common is a willingness to work together in a reciprocal and cooperative manner. Let’s make sure that a search of fiscal prudence does not undermine that cooperative success.

Rich Boulet, Blue Hill Public Library

Ruth Eveland, Jesup Memorial Library, Bar Harbor

Elly Andrews, Northeast Harbor Library

Erich Reed, Southwest Harbor Public Library

Lisa Murray, Bass Harbor Memorial Library

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