By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It was like living last year all over again and the final result could mean the end of a long era.
Taylor Library officials were caught off guard again this year as one town councilor made a motion during a recent budget workshop to zero fund the tiny East Derry facility.
Town Council Chairman Mark Osborne made a motion to zero fund the library, but councilors eventually voted, 4-3, to maintain the library’s proposed $187,189 budget for next year.
Osborne, Councilors Michael Fairbanks and Al Dimmock voted against funding Taylor Library. But Town Councilors Phyllis Katsakiories, Tom Cardon , Joshua Bourdon and Dave Fischer supported the library.
A public hearing on the town budget was scheduled for this week. Councilors could still revisit the library budget issue and make further decisions on its fate.
A similar Taylor request came last year when then Town Administrator John Anderson suggested zero funding the library as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget.
That led to weeks of concerns and comments from library supporters, a petition drive and children presenting drawings to the Town Council, urging them to keep the library open. Councilors eventually voted last year to save the library.
This year, the topic came back after Taylor officials presented their budget information.
Longtime library director Linda Merrill said she was blindsided once again and was still not comfortable about what could still transpire this year.
“I lost 10 years of my life,” she said.
Supporters once again spoke out to help keep Taylor Library open.
Marge Palmer, a former Taylor Library director, spoke to councilors at a recent meeting. She said the library has waited in line for its turn to reap town benefits and be considered for expansion. A formal expansion plan was once created to make the library larger, but that never happened.
Palmer said Taylor Library is a historic part of East Derry and it would be wrong to close its doors.
“I left part of my heart after I worked there for 17 years,” Palmer said. “Please don’t break it.”
Fairbanks said he would be torn over whether to spend money to fund the library or use the money to do something else, like expand tax credits for local veterans.
“I’ve never been to Taylor Library, but can these same services be performed at Derry Public Library?” he said. “Has it ever been tried?”
Merrill said she won’t rest easy until the final town budget vote is taken.
She said she appreciated the councilors who supported the budget, as well as acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau who supported the library in his budget statement to Council.
But Osborne said library services in town are being duplicated at Derry Public Library, located only a short distance away.
That library’s budget is $1.2 million.
“We talk a lot about taxes in this town, people complain that we are overtaxed,” he said. “People say the Derry Town Council doesn’t do enough to keep taxes low.”
Osborne said he didn’t make the motion lightly.
“I don’t think a town this size needs two libraries,” he said.
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 grew 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 building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I view the Taylor Library as a historic landmark,” Bourdon said. “It’s vibrant and offers children and families a unique experience.”
If that library is ever closed, there is no plan in place for what would happen to the building.
The Taylor family’s legacy specified it could only be used as a library.
For Merrill, it’s another waiting game until that final budget vote comes.
“We’re not safe,” she said.