|Clarksburg Library Wants Talks With Town, School Officials|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
04:08AM / Wednesday, January 08, 2020
|The library is attached to the school and there are concerns about people coming to the school parking in or blocking the spots dedicated to library patrons. |
Select Board member Jeffrey Levanos, attending as an observer, takes notes as Trustee Chairwoman Debra Bua speaks.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The trustees of the Clarksburg Town Library are trying to "clear up a few misconceptions about the town library and its operation."
Trustee Chairwoman Debra Bua had invited members of the Select Board, School Committee and other officials to Tuesday's meeting in hopes of hammering out parking issues and responding to recent comments in the media about library operations.
"It's just upsetting for us to hear and read things from other meetings," said Trustee Patricia Denault. "You know, they want to take our library and things like that. And so we wanted to address these things and get to the bottom of it."
But a miscommunication in when and where the meeting would take place and a lost fax meant that the joint meeting would have to take place at a later date.
Select Board members Jeffrey Levanos and Danielle Luchi did attend but could not really participate because they constituted a quorum.
"This is very uncomfortable for me because I can't be here in the capacity of my being a selectman," Levanos said. "I'm just an observer. And so I can't ask any questions. I can't answer any questions."
What they could do was listen as Bua read a statement on the library's history and its operations. The library was built in 1996 as an annex to Clarksburg School and functions as both a school and public library under Library Director Lynn DePaoli.
Moreso, said Mary Ann Maroni, a retired teacher and library employee, it is also fills an important function within the community.
"This is not just a place where people come to borrow books. This is a second home to many of the elderly who come here," she said. "They feel safe, they feel warm. They come in, they speak to Lynn. They ask questions, they lean on her, she offers solace to them. It just is a very comforting place for so many of the people of this community."
The trustees had been taken aback by recent comments made at School Committee meetings about the library not being cooperative in being more open to the students, assertions that it was "underutilized space," and an idea floated that maybe it should be moved to the Community/Senior Center so the school could use the space.
Bua noted that the School Committee had authorized a 99-year lease back in 1996 and that the library had done its best to serve the school and community within the limitations of its budget and capacity.
The library currently hosts a preschool storytime program each Monday with an average attendance of 20 children and Maroni also reads to the primary grades during the times they come in. Schoolchildren are limited to certain days and must be supervised. Trustees say that is because they must take into account the adult users of the library as well. They say there have been some instances where the children have been disruptive or have broken things.
What they are most concerned about is the parking problems because parents line up well before the school dismissal and block in library patrons, or they park in designated library spots. School officials have discussed the issue of parents arriving too early and have tried to address it but the library trustees say it continues to be a safety concern, particularly for its older patrons.
The library began closing an hour earlier at the school's suggestion to limit the congestion but there are still problems on early dismissal days.
The library serves both the town and the school.
Bua said she'd asked one driver to move her vehicle to let a patron out but the woman responded with an abrupt "no." Denault said the parents have been very "aggressive" in staking out spots in line.
"We have reached out to the school many times including inviting Mr. [John] Franzoni to observe from the library, the traffic congestion and how difficult it is, or how difficult it would be to get a fire truck or an ambulance into the driveway in an emergency situation," Bua said in her statement. "We have had more than our share of complaints from town patrons on their ability to enter and exit the school library grounds."
The trustees are hoping that a joint meeting between the boards, Superintendent of Schools Franzoni, the town administrator and the police and fire chiefs will help open communications and resolve the parking dilemma.
"Understand we run our library the best that we are able to," said Bua. "We don't tell the school how to run the school. We don't tell selectmen what we think you should be doing. I just wish they would cooperate with us and just answer our plea on the safety for the kids and for the citizens of Clarksburg."
Levanos suggested that the joint meeting could be held on Feb. 12, if a representative of the trustee could make the request at Wednesday's Select Board meeting under "other business." It would be helpful, he said, if a school official could do so as well.
"The important thing is to get to everybody to make sure they can make that day," he said.