Libraries

Reading is entertainment, as well as educational, right? I wasn’t sure where to put this on site. I admit: this is a cousin, but it also explains how libraries, last bastion and depository for our knowledge, our imagination and creativity, are dealing with budget cuts in a time where we only seem to have money to occupy, kill and decide for others what form of governance they should have.

Nothing in the article is that partisan in nature. That’s me. And I stand by that statement as firmly as supposed patriots stand by theirs.

HARTLAND, Maine John Clark often says he runs Hartland Public Library more like a hardware store than a library.

At a hardware store, you dont want to find a predominance of washers that fit faucets from 10 years ago, said Clark. Thats my theory with books.

In addition to his hardware store theory, Clark has another scheme at work: swap shop.

I can turn a paperback into an audio book, said the bearded, bespectacled librarian whos more likely than not to throw a well-intentioned barb at incoming patrons. I ship books all over the world.

And from all over the world, he receives as well.

He toted Fridays receipts, each clad in its own postal packaging, in a plastic shopping bag: An Ethan Hawke movie, audio books by Garrison Keillor, Ted Dekker and Dave Luckett, and books by Lori Foster and Clinton McKinzie.

This cost $36.95, said Clark, glancing at the back of Keillors 2007 audio book called Pontoon. I traded two books for this.

Chances are, those two books were duplicates of whats on the Hartland librarys shelves. Or maybe Clark decided there wouldnt be enough interest from patrons, vis-a-vis his hardware store theory.

On the same day, Clark had packaged seven books to ship out paying all the postage personally though he said both the incoming and outgoing stacks were smaller than average. Web sites make it possible. Clark has 800 books listed on www.bookmooch.com, 1,500 on www.swaptree.com and 2,500 on www.paperbackswap.com. He keeps a wish list of items hes looking for, as do librarians and individuals all over the world. Computers do the matching.

In an era when any publicly funded institution has to spend wisely, Clark manages to make a lot out of a little. His annual buying budget of $4,400 comes from donations, grants, and proceeds from the librarys endowment. His salary and other operating expenses are covered by contributions from the towns of Hartland, St. Albans and Palmyra.

While he said the library has enjoyed steady public funding in recent years, it still operates on a bare-bones budget. Clark is the only employee, paid for 34 hours a week. There are situations like that all over Maine, said Stephanie Zurinski, the Maine State Librarys central Maine liaison.

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