Library Statistics Don’t Show Need for Library Addition

I believe every community needs a library. Tuftonboro has a good library, but it could be better. I don’t think it is keeping up as well as it could with what is happening in the world.

Peak book circulation at the library occurred in 2009, at 23,981, while book circulation for 2017 was at 18,880; DVD and CD circulation peaked at 18,929 in 2011 and was down to 11,403 in 2017.

Meanwhile, in spite of the declines, the total number of items in the library collection has gone up from 29,258 in 2009 to 32,661 in 2017. In the same time frame, database/Internet “circulation” went from 602 to 7,101, and that is reflected in the circulation statistics. If you set aside the Internet usage, the current circulation is down by more than 10,000 items since 2009. That is a huge difference! (These statistics are not my creation, they were compiled by the library.)

The last time we discussed building a new library, at Town Meeting in 2015, the library staff expressed concern that there was no space for a break-room for staff so they could have private time away from the public. A month or two later, it was reported that they did create space for a break area by reducing the collection by about 700 items. However, by the end of the year the collection had increased by almost 600 items. Why are we accumulating more books when book circulation is declining?

Where is the future need for these items going to come from? There is a regional and even statewide decline in young people. The school-district population has steadily declined for about 10 years. In 2005, there were 2,889 students in the district; in 2017, it was 2,326. In 2005, there were 16 tuitioned students attending our schools, and in 2017, we had 142. Tuftonboro School has gone from 191 students in 2005 to 117 in 2017—another huge difference.

Meeting-room usage at the library has been increasing. Statistics show that average attendance for meetings and programs has ranged from a low of 10 in 2016 to a high of nearly 17 in 2014; in 2017, an average of 12 people attended. The present meeting room seats 45 people with room for a couple of tables to be set up. (The room also has full rows of books covering 2 walls plus some rolling racks of books plus extra chairs.) I have heard that the Polar Express, which is held in December, has high attendance and more seating is needed. Do we really need to build a function room to seat 85 people for one or two or even three events? The Polar Express could be held at the school gymnasium or the school cafeteria or at one of at least five other available places in town (Melvin Church, Willing Workers Hall, Tuftonboro Corner Church, Town House, Todaro Center).

Technology is the future. I don’t know how anyone can fail to see that. For Internet usage, do we need more space, let alone double the present square footage? The library needs to reduce its collection and increase its technology offerings including training and service. That will attract young families to the library. Building a huge, costly addition is not the answer.

Published in Opinion

11 thoughts on “Library Statistics Don’t Show Need for Library Addition”

  1. Very good argument Susan, thank you for compiling this data. The numbers speak volumes. I appreciate your effort.

  2. “Why are we accumulating more books” It is needful to buy new books to stay current: award winners, bestsellers, updated non-fiction subjects. The point is to remove books that are dated or worn out.

  3. The following comment for Moultonborough, might be applicable to Tuftonboro. Substitute “Taylor property” in Moultonborough for “Library” in Tuftonboro. See Moultonborospeaks blog. See, also, RSA 39:3

    Regards,
    A Moultonborough and Carroll county resident

    “There is still another option, for those that feel an issue can’t wait till the next annual town meeting, or has just been going on for too long.

    50 registered voters can petition the BoS for a “special town meeting”. Stating, in the petition, no money issues are to be discussed, then, no permission from the Superior Court is required, I believe.

    Example: 50 registered voters petition to have a special town meeting to create a town green at the Taylor/French property by a certain date. Have the debate, discussion, and vote.

    No expense for a facilitator is needed. The town moderator will be the facilitator, with “overrule” authority by the voters. Amendments can be made. The town (voters) would decide by a majority vote, and that “moves it along”, no more studies.

    Since there is only one (or two …) issues to vote on, the moderator would probably refrain from “call the question” and let the debate be exhausted. It still takes a majority vote to “call the question”. 2/3rds rules for calling the question requirements are parliamentary, not statutory, and can be overruled by the voters.

    Making the meeting when the snowbirds are back would give a broader vote.”

    March 17, 2018 at 6:17 PM

  4. Thanks, Joe,

    Whether to build an addition on the library is, in fact, a money decision, though, so a special meeting (called as a non-emergency meeting without superior court approval) would require around 1,000 ballots to be cast (1/2 the number of registered voters, which is about 2,000 in Tuftonboro).

  5. My computer just lost (presumably my computer) what I was posting.

    My comment is the decision to build a library is not an emergency. A “Special Town Meeting” is not, by definition, an emergency. “Special Town Meeting” is the correct nomenclature. See RSA 39:3

    A special town meeting with no money talk, to build the library, does not trigger the 50% of voter registry rule, nor Superior Court approval rule. A separate meeting, such as the annual town meeting, could be the platform for the appropriation for the library. Additionally, affirmation of a non-monetary warrant article only needs a majority vote, at either town meeting.

    Any appropriation of $100,000 or higher requires a 2/3rds ballot affirmation (3/5ths for SB-2 towns) of the voters present. It would have to be those “present” because the question cannot be placed on “the official ballot”, and absentee ballots are not available for the question. “Ballot” should not be confused with the ballot used for electing the select board (Australian ballot). “The ballot” is that piece of paper, used at the town meeting for secret ballots.

    I suspect Tuftonboro doesn’t get 1,000 voters at the annual town meeting, either, just as MoBo doesn’t get 2,000 out of the 3,700-4000 registered voters. Those 50% numbers are only needed by the Superior Court for a special town meeting where money is decided. The significant difference of either the annual or special town meetings is the “money” decisions to be made.

    MoBo gets 200-300 voters in those years that don’t have controversial warrant articles. Those years, like votes for a Community Center, draw 500-700 voters and are “robust” and long meetings. MoBo also combines the warrant article to build and finance the Community Center. I’d like to see a MoBo Special Town Meeting to decide to build or not to build. For MoBo, that means with or without a gym. I believe the town wants a Social Center, especially with us folks in the aging demographic. Gym … NO! Build at Taylor property or refurbish the Lion’s club … either one.

    All we need is a 50 voter petition for a special meeting this summer (snow birds could now vote) to get in a room and debate it, and vote on it. At the next annual meeting we can vote on a bond article, if needed, but the decision to build something will have been made.

    1. Hi, Joe,

      I really appreciate you commenting on the site. However, I’m sorry to say I think you’re mistaken about the special meeting. If the selectmen call a special meeting on their own, or by petition of 50 registered voters, that’s when the 50% ballot to registered voters rule applies. If the superior court grants a request for a special meeting, that’s when you don’t need the 50% ballots.

      And I don’t understand the point of calling a special meeting for a “sense of the meeting” vote on whether to do the particular project (community center in Moultonborough, library in Tuftonboro) that would be non-binding. Say the special meeting did vote to “do the project.” So what? All that matters is the money vote at the regular meeting…

      Thanks again! It’s nice to hear from another town.

  6. Joe: The libarary opposition crowd in Tuftonboro isn’t seeking a “broader vote” they are seeking a no vote. For the average homeowner (I define average as a $250,00o property for this example) it would cost approximately $42.50 per year, for 7-years to put on the library addition. A small amount, but it doesn’t matter. Christ, it could be an extra $5.00 a year and many would fight to the death in opposition. I consider myself conservative, but at some point there needs to be compromise, especially considering Tuftonboro’s tax burden is in the bottom 5% of all town’s in New Hampshire and New Hampshire’s tax burden is in the bottom 25% of all states in the Union. Taken together my estimate is that Tuftonboro’s tax burden is in the bottom 5-10% of all cities and towns in the country. There are many issues in the country not least of which include the massive federal debt, illegal immigration, the opioid crises, terrorisim and on and on. Can’t we move beyond the library addition? Please!!

  7. Hey Max, and kudos for providing a public forum for discourse. The “Special Town Meeting” I’m referring to is here:
    RSA 39:3
    “39:3 Articles. – Upon the written application of 25 or more registered voters or 2 percent of the registered voters in town, whichever is less, although in no event shall fewer than 10 registered voters be sufficient, presented to the selectmen or one of them not later than the fifth Tuesday before the day prescribed for an annual meeting, the selectmen shall insert in their warrant for such meeting the petitioned article with only such minor textual changes as may be required. For the purposes of this section, the number of registered voters in a town shall be the number of voters registered prior to the last state general election. The right to have an article inserted in the warrant conferred by this section shall not be invalidated by the provisions of RSA 32. In towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants …. upon the written application of 50 or more voters … or 1/4 of the voters in town, whichever is fewer, and in towns with 10,000 or more inhabitants upon the written application of 5 percent of the registered voters in the town, so presented not less than 60 days before the next annual meeting, … the selectmen shall warn a special meeting to act upon any question … specified in such application.

    The added dots are mine to focus the key words; summarizing the statute: 25 registered voters to place a warrant article at the annual town meeting ; 50 registered voters for a Special Town meeting warrant.
    There is no requirement of 50% of anything, to have 50 registered voters call for a special meeting. If “money “is discussed (appropriations), then the Superior court will want evidence of at least 50% of voter registry to attend. The reasoning for not discussing money.

    The votes at a special meeting are just as valid and enforceable as at the annual town meeting. They are not “sense of the meeting” votes which are not binding. “Sense of the meeting” votes are normally votes on items congratulating someone for service, or recognizing someone, and are “feel good” items … but not legally binding. Motions that have not been “noticed” and “warned” could be “sense of the meeting” voted, but have no legal bearing. See #6 in the following URL.

    Here’s one NHMA article that may help:

    9. Any 50 Voters Can Call a Special Town Meeting.
    A “special” town meeting means any meeting other than the annual meeting. In most towns, the annual meeting is held the second Tuesday in March (RSA 39:1). But the selectmen can call a “special” meeting whenever they feel there’s a need for it. In order to petition for a special meeting, you need 50 voters’ signatures on a petitioned warrant article, submitted to the selectmen. The selectmen must call the meeting, unless the annual meeting is only 60 days away or less, in which case they can just add your petitioned article to the annual meeting warrant (RSA 39:3).

    [CAUTION! Money articles (i.e. articles requiring the appropriation of funds) can’t be voted on at special meetings unless at least half the town’s voters show up, or unless the selectmen have petitioned the Superior Court (RSA 31:5).]

    Note the use of the word “or” in the last sentence.

    MoBo has the money, but not the “appropriation,” which could be done at the annual meeting, after the special town meeting, where voters could require the select board to build a center. The voters have rejected the select board version of a community center, that includes a gym, a couple of times already, and it will continue to come up once a year till there’s a change in strategy. A “social center”, without a gym, but with a town common green at the Taylor property, has support. Amending the article at town meeting to reflect this, is viewed as “changing the article” too much to make it an invalid amendment … like “sense of the meeting”!

    I probably won’t be commenting much more Max, but appreciate a town resident that provides a forum for unfettered civilized opinion . I’ve included URL’s as sources for my comments, but don’t know if you allow on this forum for spammimg reasons.

    KNOWING THE
    TERRITORY
    A Survey of Municipal Law for New Hampshire Local Officials
    page 35:

    2. Special Town Meetings, No Appropriation Requested
    RSA 39:1 permits the select board to call a special meeting anytime it finds “occasion” for one. RSA 31:131 (empowering select board to insert any article that a statute authorizes by petition of voters). In addition, RSA 39:3 permits the voters to petition for a special town meeting. If the petition has the signatures of at least 50 voters, or one-quarter of the voters in the town, whichever is less, the select board is required to call the special meeting, as long as the petition is presented to the select board at least 60 days before the next annual meeting. All special town meetings require the same posting as annual meetings, plus publication of the warrant in a newspaper of general circulation within one week after posting. RSA 39:4. For the most part, a special town meeting has the same authority to act on any matter as an annual meeting.
    There are some exceptions.

    a. Where prohibited by statute. Some actions can only be taken at an annual meeting. For example,
    an increase in the membership of the select board from three to five members can occur at the annual
    meeting only. RSA 41:8-b.

    b. Exception for collective bargaining. RSA 31:5, III allows a town to have a special meeting to act
    on collective bargaining cost items without superior court permission, but only if a collective bargaining agreement was submitted to and rejected by the annual meeting, and the annual meeting has passed a conditional vote allowing the special meeting. The form of the question is: “Shall [the town], if article
    __ is defeated, authorize the governing body to call one special meeting, at its option, to address article
    __ cost items only?”

    c. Exception for official ballot referendum towns. RSA 40:13, X allows towns that have adopted
    the official ballot referendum form of town meeting (SB 2) to hold a special meeting without court
    permission to take up the issue of a revised operating budget if the proposed budget has been rejected
    by the voters.

    3. Special Town Meetings, Appropriation Requested

    a. Appropriations of money. Unless they are sure that at least 50 percent of all voters on the checklist
    will attend a special meeting, the select board must seek permission of the superior court to call a
    special town meeting in order to appropriate money. Since that level of attendance is unlikely in the
    majority of towns, court intervention is usually required. The court must find that an “emergency,” as defined in RSA 31:5, exists before granting the petition, and approval is not automatic.

    b. Emergency. RSA 31:5 defines “emergency” as a situation that is sudden or unexpected, is serious
    and urgent, or requires prompt action, including an expenditure of money. It does not always involve
    a crisis, however. The court will consider various factors to determine whether an emergency exists,
    including:
    • the severity of the harm to be avoided;
    • the urgency of the petitioner’s need;
    • whether the claimed emergency was foreseeable or avoidable;
    • whether the appropriation could have been made at the annual meeting; and
    • whether there are alternative remedies not requiring an appropriation.

    Additional steps to provide notice are necessary for a special town meeting to approve an appropriation. When the select board members decide to petition the superior court for permission to hold the meeting, a notice of the vote must be posted within 24 hours after the vote. Then, they must wait at least ten days before filing the petition in court. On or before filing with the court, the select board must send a copy of the petition and warrant to the DRA by certified mail. Another notice must be posted within 24 hours of receiving notice of the court hearing date. Both notices must be posted at the select board’s office and two other conspicuous public places, and the notices must also be published in the next available edition of a local newspaper with wide circulation in the town. RSA 31:5. The purpose of all these additional forms of notice is to make citizens aware of the issue and provide them with an opportunity to oppose the request for permission to hold the special meeting.
    For more information, see NHMA’s publication, Town Meeting and School Meeting Handbook.

    The system wouldn’t let me post. It thought I was spam.Story of my life!!!
    I pulled out the URL’s I had listed as sources, and will try again.

  8. #6 from NHMA article

    New Hampshire Town And City
    16 Things Every Citizen Should Know About Town Meeting
    New Hampshire Town and City, January/February 2015

    By H. Bernard Waugh, Jr., with 2015 Update by Cordell A. Johnston

    6. No Vote Can Be Legally Binding Unless Its Subject Matter was Stated in the Warrant.

    The “warrant” is a sort of agenda for the town meeting, which is posted two weeks in advance by the selectmen. In most towns it’s also printed in the town report, published before the annual town meeting. The requirement that all subject matter must be stated in the warrant (RSA 39:2) keeps the meeting orderly, prevents surprise, and lets voters who might otherwise stay home know that some topic of interest to them is coming up for discussion and possible action.

    The warrant law requires only the general subject matter to be stated. The actual votes don’t have to be word-­for-word the same as the warrant articles. You don’t have to “take it or leave it.” Amendments will be legally valid, so long as they are within the same general subject matter. But amendments which add some brand new subject matter will not be legally effective (Sawyer v. Railroad, 62 N.H. 135).

    You can see from this rule that any vote taken under a warrant article entitled “other business” cannot be legally binding, because that article doesn’t state any subject matter. Of course a vote to name someone “Volunteer of the Year,” a vote to thank the Girl Scouts for the sandwiches, or even a vote to strongly urge the selectmen to appoint an advisory committee to look into a parking garage, doesn’t have to be legally binding, and therefore can be passed under an “other business” article.

  9. Mike: Sorry, I overlooked your last comment!

    I would indeed oppose the library addition even if it added “only” $5 per year to my taxes. As you point out, the estimate is more like $40+. The reason is, simply, we do not need a bigger library. We have a nice library that meets our needs. There are some small things we could do, such as new carpeting, better windows, etc. That would be a compromise. Tripling the size of the library is not a compromise, in my opinion.

    How many many projects can we do that add $5 per year (really $40) to average property owner’s taxes before we no longer have a low tax rate? All these things add up and eventually we’ll be drowning.

    (By the way, the median home value is $300,000, according to the treasurer, Jack Widmer.)

    It seems like the majority of people in town who vote don’t care about restraining spending, though, so I guess in 10 years we’ll find out.

    As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts.

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