By Savannah Bachelder, Contributing Writer
While the Farmington Public Library looks the same on outside, regular patrons will find both organizational changes and improvements within. However, there will be less time each week for visitors to enjoy these changes after weekly hours of operation were recently cut to make up for the rising employment costs associated with the statewide minimum wage increase among other issues. The library staff and board of directors are currently working to organize fundraising and grant-writing efforts to compensate for the funding shortage.
In a recent effort to open up more space, the genealogy room was moved upstairs in order to bring the young-adult section, which is in higher demand, to the first floor. Maurie Stockford, the director of the library, said that everything was moved around to help increase the use of the library. “There was no place for them to just be, to hang out. So we had to move the young adults section,” she explained.
There is tons of open space to walk around and sit at tables in both rooms, with their own study space. The library also received assistance reorganizing the section according to first year staff member Elena Kohout. “They are categorized by genre now, thanks to the Upward Bound students,” Kohout explained.
Other changes were made for the new children’s room as well. Along with the computers and magazines, the old children’s area, is now called the Computer Cafe Room. “The new children’s section used to be the staff’s private room and storage, so now we don’t have a staff room,” said Kohout.
Harley Davis, a senior at UMF, used the library a few times for college work last year, before the changes. “I’ve used the library for their children’s books,” said Davis. “They have a great selection in there, and there’s so much to choose from.”
In addition to these new improvements however, budget constraints have been posing a challenge for the library as of late. Hours of operation were recently decreased due to rising employment costs associated with the statewide minimum wage increase and rising health insurance prices. “The town of Farmington pays for staffing and health insurance,” said Stockford. “Currently, they could not cover for that. So we had asked for more money to cover for it.”
Originally, the library had requested $209,990 to help meet these costs and pay for utility problems, but they were allocated $196,029 instead. While this figure does represent an increase from last year’s budget and the revised budget submitted earlier this year, the difference is not enough to cover the rising employment costs. It was between the beginning of the budget process and the final vote that the library preemptively choose to reduce hours in anticipation of not receiving the full amount of their request.
There were two options of working with a lower budget: to either decrease staff, or to reduce the hours that the library would be open. Already short-staffed, the latter option prevailed. While the $209,990 figure would have covered the elevated employment expenses, the final budget does not, therefore the reduced hours remain.
From Tuesdays through Saturdays, hours changed from 9:30 in the mornings to 10:30 a.m. While in the afternoons, Thursdays have changed from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays were changed from 2:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. The rest of the afternoon times remain the same.
Despite the funding situation and reduced hours, library staffers are keeping their hopes up, and finding more ways to bring in money. “Our board of directors is working on raising activities, like fundraising,” said Stockford. “Another goal would be to write more grants. We are already on the register for historical buildings.”
Kohout mentioned that last year in December, the library also received a generous donation from the Libra Foundation, of $5,000 worth of new computers for the new Computer Cafe Room. “We’ll be setting them up this week,” Kohout said.