, Derry, New Hampshire

April 11, 2013

East Derry library may be on chopping block

Taylor Library could be on chopping block

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Adam Burke was only 2 when he started going to Taylor Library.

Now, the 15-year-old hopes to save it.

Patrons, supporters and staff of the tiny library in East Derry are still reeling after hearing Town Administrator John Anderson’s recommendation that the library’s funding be eliminated.

The teenager was one of many supporters who spoke at a Town Council meeting last week, urging officials to save the library. His Eagle Scout project was installing shelves at the library.

“I wanted to give back to the little library that has helped me my whole life,” he said. “Please don’t close my library.”

Anderson deemed the library’s $176,000 budget too much for the town right now, especially given Derry Public Library can absorb Taylor’s programs and resources.

“I believe the Derry Public Library is better positioned and able to provide the library services desired by our citizens today and in the future,” he said.

Attempts to reach Derry Public Library director Cheryl Lynch this week were unsuccessful. Derry Public Library trustee Elizabeth Ives did say a lot of discussion was needed before deciding to close Taylor.

“I understand what the (town administrator) is doing,” she said. “He trying to save where he can to keep property taxes down.”

Ives said the question to be asked is what would be missed if Taylor Library closed.

“That’s a real important question everybody needs to ask,” she said.

Absorbing Taylor programs into Derry Public’s world could mean added expenses, including extra staff and technology upgrades, Ives said.

Anderson said it’s up to the Town Council to make the final call.

Taylor Library director Linda Merrill said a lot of support is coming from those who love the library and hope to see it continue. She was floored by Anderson’s decision to possibly close its doors.

“We had already put our budget numbers in for next year,” Merrill said. “I was blindsided by this whole thing.”

Now in her 23rd year at the library, Merrill said losing it would leave a big hole in the East Derry community.

Taylor Library first opened its doors in 1878 in a space at the historic Upper Village Hall, thanks to a $1,000 bequest from Harriet Taylor. Her sister, Emma, later donated another $1,000 to support the library.

As space got tight, the library moved across the street in the 1920s to its present location — a small brick building given to the town by Frederick Shepard Jr., grandfather to America’s first man in space, East Derry native Alan B. Shepard Jr.

The future astronaut once helped his grandmother, Annie, carry and arrange the books in her job as a Taylor librarian. The famed flier’s father, Alan Sr., served as a library trustee for 52 years. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Taylor Library has about 24,000 volumes and more than 2,900 patrons visiting its intimate, 1,300-square-foot space. Families enjoy story hours, summer events and popular holiday activities like the annual “Polar Express” story time. Often there are waiting lists for children who want to attend.

Merrill said people are showing support through emails, calls to town officials and by signing a petition. The petition had more than 100 signatures by early this week. Copies are at various locations around East Derry, including the East Derry store and post office. Library trustees planned an emergency meeting this week.

“It’s just amazing,” Merrill said. “People keep calling and asking me what they can do to save the library. It’s just snowballing.”

Ginny Mooney has worked at the library for 13 years. Closing the doors would be a sad end, she said.

“I enjoy every day I come to work,” she said. “It’s not like a job, it’s family. It would be a loss to the town and a loss to us, too.”

The seven-member Town Council is scheduled to hear more about Taylor’s proposed $176,600 budget for next year at a budget review workshop on April 30. A public hearing on all budget items is scheduled for May 2.

Anderson held off making any comments.

“I will respond to all these questions during the budget hearing,” he said.

Councilor Brad Benson said nothing is a done deal.

“Just because it’s in the budget book doesn’t mean it will be voted upon,” he said. “I don’t believe there is much support for the closing of the library.”

Councilor Tom Cardon said he has heard from many people who support the library.

“There has been an overwhelming support to keep the library open,” he said. “It wasn’t people just saying they want to keep the library open. They all had stories about their experiences at the library. They talked about mothers, grandmothers, special moments and memories. It was all very personal and important to them.”

Councilor Mark Osborne said once budget season moves forward, the group will give “due diligence” to the Taylor issue.

“We fully intend to be diligent in pursuing all avenues,” he said.

Merrill can’t imagine life without the library.

“It would mean the end of a gem in East Derry,” she said. “There will be no little library on the hill.”