In remembrance: Gloucester historian Joe Garland and poet Amy Dengler



Public and non-profit institutions survive and thrive due in large part to a dedicated cadre of volunteers, donors and advocates. This past year we experienced the loss of two key library supporters and volunteers and a strong library advocate. We acknowledge the passing of Harriet Webster. During her tenure on City Council, and especially in her work on the Budget and Finance Committee and as Library Corporator, Harriet was diligent in her support of the library, its budget and its programming. And later as Director of the Maritime Heritage Center, she continued to attend library meetings and worked to collaborate with the library whenever possible. Amy Dengler, as many of you know, was past Board President at a time when major decisions about the library's future needed to be made. Amy stepped up. She was a long serving volunteer having dedicated over twelve years leading the Art Advisory and its Annual Art Auction. Amy was a strong believer in the public library system, an active and frequent library user and a generous financial donor. We shall miss these two strong women and express condolences to their famillies.

Joe Garland has been heralded by many for his authorship and advocacy for the community and its preservation and place in history. What many may have forgotten or overlooked is his legacy to the library. Joe was a member of the Library Corporators for nearly 50 years, having been tapped for such in 1963. In 1973 he was elected to the Board of Directors and subsequently named Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the newly proposed 1976 addition. In 12 short weeks in '73 his committee met their goal of $500,000, the private share of the $1.3 million dollar project. In 1976 he was named chair of the Dedication Ceremony, held in May, 1976 for the newly built and much improved library. Elected President of the Board in 1978 he went up against City officials in the fall of that year. Under Mayor Leo Alper the City was attempting to take control of library staffing and book ordering. Joe met the next morning with Mayor Alper and his assistant Jonathan Bayliss who had ordered the consolidation. Joe affirmed that under state statute the Library should be managed by professional staff for the City of Gloucester. Following the meeting the Gloucester Daily Times reported an exasperated Mayor Alper as saying that he had enough fires to put out in the city without dealing with the likes of Joe Garland and that Joe and his library people coud keep the library! Joe's presidency lasted four years until 1982 when his term ended and he was succeeded by Red Deering.

His relationship with the Library continued with programs and readings and financial donations. In 2006 Joe made a digital copy of his reading of his legendary book of the life of Howard Blackburn, Lone Voyager. He then signed over the digital copyrights to the Library that the sales of the CD be used in its support. Joe frequently compared the library to the "heart of the circulatory system that is the community of Gloucester" and as the central or core non-profit institution where everyone meets. He extoled the staff throughout the years for their assistance and knowledge in the many hours he spent here researching his many books. We had an opportunity to extend our sympathies to Helen and Joe's family at the city-wide celebration of his life a few weeks ago.

You follow in the same tradition as Amy, Harriet and Joe. You are Members of the Corporation of the Sawyer Free Library. You are donors, volunteers and advocates. We are currently a few weeks away from city elections. I am calling upon you all in your role as advocates to use your voice in affirming the importance of this Library in the community not only to elected officials but to your fellow citizens. Though demands upon library services for Internet use, technology assistance and interlibrary loan materials have never been greater, support from the City budget for staffing is at the lowest point in at least 20 years if not longer. Despite the Mayor's commitment last year to raising the level of support for the library for the next four years and supporting the position of Assistant Director, we were denied assess to those appropriated funds in January when the snow deficit was announced. This is our fourth year in applying for a waiver from the State due to the fact that we have been underfunded. We are nearly $100,000 below established budget figures from the state. Our staffing numbers are far below neighboring towns of Beverly and Danvers with comparable populations. We need to keep the pressure upon city officials to support the library and remind them of their campaign promises. The Library must continue to be on their radar.

It is particularly important that we not see another fiscal year without the staffing support of an Assistant Director. That position has been vacant for the past four years. The gains in technology have added to the duties and responsibilities of public libraries. Veteran staff must be retrained and libraries need to take the lead in training the public with new technology. We should be hosting more public workshops in identifying the best job and career sites, providing vital support to jobseekers, educating patrons in the use of the Kindle and other electronic reading devices and in general Internet use. There are building and ground issues which need closer oversight. We desperately need to update our website and increase the hours of prefessional reference assistance. Currently we are open 59 hours per week. During that time we have one professional reference librarian who is on duty 32.5 hours per week. An Assistant Director at the very least would provide for 15-20 of additional hours of reference assistance, additional hours of staff oversight, more opportunities for staff training and development, support for upgrading the library's website, and provide an additional perspective in visioning and planning or the library's future.

Despite the lack of adequate staffing, the Library is able to maintain its level of dedicated service to the community. Attached to your agenda you will see some of the current service statistics. These statistics remain somewhat strong due to the dedication of the staff and to the large number of volunteer hours. One volunteer of nearly 20 years is responsible for processing 90% of the paperback collection. The online version of your Annual Report will outline many other activities in the various departments of the Library. I strongly urge you in this election year to take seriously your duties as advovates for the Library.

In closing I wish to express my gratitude to the many volunteers who have served us with four thousand hours of time over the past year. There are many staff members who have participated beyond their regular duties to assist in preparing materials for tonight's meeting: Linda Bosselman for the many photos and work in providing the photo boards; Valerie Marino and Cindi Williams for their technical assistance and help in assembling materials; Christy Rosso who in addition to serving as Children's Librarian is also our webmaster; Helen Freeman for her editing assistance; and of course Stella Mantzourani, my Administrative Assistant who has stepped up throughout the year as well as this evening to offer her support. And of course special appreciation to our volunteer for 30 hours each week to support our graphic and other visual needs, Tom Byers.

Thank you, Members of the Corporation for keeping alive the belief in the mission of public libraries and call upon you once again to advocate on behalf of the library.

Respectfully submitted,

Carol Gray
Director, Sawyer Free Library