To the editor:
In small towns and large cities, regardless of whether they are in New England, across the U.S. or anywhere on Earth, libraries provide a wide variety of services and play numerous roles. Rather than becoming obsolete, libraries have become the center or core of many towns, and the Fryeburg Public Library illustrates that more and more each day.
We are writing in response to the report in The Conway Daily Sun about Fryeburg’s June 13 town meeting. The Friends of the Fryeburg Public Library feel compelled to offer some facts before the image of the Fryeburg Public Library is tarnished. At Fryeburg’s town meeting, Article 9 pertained to whether the town would vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $95,036 for the library account. Having attended the selectmen’s meeting a few weeks prior when each of the articles was discussed and voted on, we’d heard their discussion and knew that they had voted unanimously to recommend appropriation.
While reviewing the articles at the town meeting, we were surprised to read that the budget committee had voted three in favor and two against the appropriation. When the question was asked why the two members of the budget committee had not voted in favor of the library’s 2019-20 budget, the moderator, Peter Malia, solicited a response from the budget committee.
Member James Tyrrell answered the question by asserting that the library is not necessary. He went on to say “We’re providing a lot of the service cost-wise, but were not charging as much for it.” He added that “using the Conway Public Library would be more cost-effective; you can just go to Conway and buy a non-resident card for $40, why do we need a library here?”
Aside from the fact that a non-resident Conway Public Library card for an individual or family is actually $80 per year, Fryeburg residents are best served by the Fryeburg Public Library. Our library, within walking distance of many homes and each of our schools, is brimming with opportunities for residents of all ages. The Library Use Calculator provides data to support the fact that story time is now needed twice a week because of demand, after-school help and tutoring is supporting our elementary, middle school and Fryeburg Academy students; and material lending and interlibrary loan through the Maine State Library, computer and chrome book availability as well as WiFi access allow many residents to utilize these items to enhance and improve their lives. Adult ed, high school completion courses and certification and health-care training are increasingly filled to capacity.
In her first year as our librarian, Jennifer Spofford has written many grant applications that have resulted in special courses and workshops being offered to residents to help them register to vote and in turn help their family and neighbors; learn how to improve their resumes; design spreadsheets using Google sheets/Excel; and avail themselves general tech help.
Community members have led a wide variety of workshops, some sponsored by The Friends of the FPL, including Snowmobiling Safety and Etiquette; gardening to grow one’s own food; and learning about substitute teaching. Professionals offer Medicare counseling, tax preparation assistance and CPR. Weekly knitting groups, card games, monthly book discussion groups, teen trivia and games, and more bring community members together in a safe space.
Our Fryeburg Public Library welcomes young and older townspeople, offering an abundance of wonderful books, author visits and an aesthetic space to delve into them all. We’re so glad our selectman have been supportive.
We enthusiastically applaud their pursuit of the library having an annex in the 218-year-old registry of deeds building. A media center adjacent to our historic library building would be an additional asset.
Nora Schwarz, president
On behalf of the Friends of the Fryeburg Public Library