One Dartmouth resident’s opinion

Ellen Hamilton, a Dartmouth resident, expresses her support for the public libraries in town.

Tenderly, I swept my hand across the last smooth book cover from my library return stack. For nostalgia of good old, well-funded library days, I flipped open the pages for a final glance at the story and drawings.

It is with mixed feelings that we return our library books on their due dates. We’re happy to know that fellow readers will delight in a tale or two, but at the same time, we feel hesitance to surrender our newly discovered literary treasures. For a second, we hold fast and lament the release of our rare finds — perfect reads with challenging words, off-beat descriptions, tender images and unforgettable stories.

Some of the books I placed in our family’s canvas library bag today, we happily checked out from Russells Mills Library. The painful truth remains that there is no money to operate or maintain Russells Mills Library or North Dartmouth Library beginning July 1. Sadly, we won’t be filling some library bags or pondering returns anymore. These libraries are closing.

There is scant money for library materials or staff at Southworth. New picture books, novels, movies or books on tape may become dear memories of the past. Our only library, for a large and growing community, will be Southworth, and it will be closed Saturdays. Where will we find mind sustenance on Saturday mornings or rainy afternoons?

Crucial fact: The state minimum municipal appropriation requirement for Dartmouth libraries for fiscal year 2008 equals $1.07 million. Town Meeting’s library appropriation, complete with an additional 2 percent departmental cut stands at $860,322. Dartmouth libraries remain $211,438 below the municipal appropriation requirement.

Dartmouth is required to spend 13 percent of our library operating budget on library print and non-print materials. The $57,500 total for books and materials voted on at Town Meeting due to the severe townwide funding crisis leaves us with only 7 percent of our budget for necessary materials and 6 percent short of the mandated requirement. We will lose libraries, professionals, resources, books, state accreditation and $41,000 plus important, free dollars in grant money for fiscal year 2008.

Current library patrons and potential ones — readers, information seekers and public technology users — must rally to swiftly prevent the dissolution of our Dartmouth public library system.

Sheridan Hay’s resolute character, Esther Chapman, from the 2006 book, “The Secret Of Lost Things,” exclaimed, “Books aren’t lumps of paper, but minds on shelves.” Esther further declared, “Reading books provided a shape to my mind that I doubt I could have formed otherwise!”

At the ballot booth, ardently protect continued public access to quality books and information. Books obtained through the free SAILS Library Network are more affordable and readily available than ones purchased through hundreds of paycheck dollars dropped at lovely bookstores annually. Bookstores are wonderful and enhance, but do not substitute for or replace, primary, fundamental, core public libraries.

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