Och. The library closed early this past Saturday and is still closed. The boiler busted sometime during the night so there was no heat. This came within a week of snow on the roof melting and literally pouring into the childrens' room. We were closed a few days for Presidents' Day weekend. Dot happened to go in on Monday to take care of some things and found the flooding. The damage would have been worse if no one had gone in until Tuesday. And that came just a few weeks after new carpeting was installed in the childrens' room. The library should reopen sometime tomorrow, if all goes well.
Lesley, the former childrens' librarian ('Mrs. K'), became the library's Director shortly after the new year (our previous Director is now at another public library nearby). What an initiation into the job!
The library is organized rather funkily. From that link:
- 'a leading citizen named James Holmes, willed his house and a sum of money to the people of Boonton upon his death in 1893 for the establishment of' the library (hence the name, Boonton Holmes Public Library)
- 'Rentals of the rest of the building were planned as a financing source for the library needs.'
- ' despite the rentals, as an association library, funds remained scarce. The library survived over the years through membership fees, fund drives, donations, and contributions from the Town of Boonton.'
- 'A successful municipalization campaign in 1993 wrought the greatest change in the library history, structure, and operations since 1894. Ownership of the building was retained by the Holmes Association after municipalization in 1993, and the main and basement floor rented to the Boonton Holmes Public Library. '
So, IIUC (and nobody quote me on this), the library Association owns the property. I believe they also retain ownership of any funds derived from the original funding, plus money received in the form of rental payments from the library and the three apartments upstairs. Now,the Association was originally and remains composed of around 7 town churches. I think the idea at the time (back in the 1890s) was that town leaders would guide the library, and the town leaders at that time were clergymen.
It's a rather odd arrangement bc it leaves the library Itself and Board and the library Association in a tenant-landlord relationship, but with a few weird twists added to the relationship. I don't believe that the town clergy are actually involved with the library these days, but the arrangement is a relic of religion's past influence and should be eliminated.
Now, here's my $0.03 wrt the arrangement: I think it stinks. Disclaimers:
- I work at the library. I make a whopping $11/hour and work approximately 15 hours/week. My paycheck from the library isn't what keeps food on the table and floor for Kevin, me and the kitties, i.e., it's not crucial to our subsistence, but I must admit that I like getting paid for my work.
- My opinions are my own and do not in any way express the opinions of any library staffperson, patron, trustee or any other library-related person.
- I love libraries. I always have. How well I remember regularly walking to the library with a big bag of books to return and leaving with another big bag of books. I took out whatever books I wanted. No one ever asked, 'Should you be reading that?' or 'Why do you want to read about that?' or 'What a silly book, such a waste of time!' Even now, it seems remarkable that a child should have such freedom: to read whatever I wanted.
- I've opined here before about my disappointment that a non-binding referendum supporting construction of a new library was voted down by town alderpeople. I understand opponents' points, but the bottom line is that the town library is still housed in the first floor and basement of a building built in, I believe, approximately 1850 and that has not been sufficiently modernized. Examples: The one bathroom cannot fit a wheelchair through the door. A person using a walker could probably fit the walker through - sideways, which probably isn't optimal for anyone using a walker. Many of the stacks cannot be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker/stroller. To access the basement, one must go down either skinny, circular internal stairs or iffy concrete external steps.
So. Why does it stink? Well, think about what it'd be like to rent an apartment in an old building. It could be great: a modernized building that still retains the good looks and charm of an old building. Or it could stink: an old building, lacking in modernization, with patchwork fixes and changes that blur the good looks and charm of the original building. IMO, the second example is the library Itself's current position. There is almost always tension between a tenant and landlord's respective interests. Each wants and expects certain things from the arrangement, without giving up too much. I'm not sure the current arrangement is in the best interests of a public library. I honestly do not know all the particulars between the library Association and Itself/Trustees, but I have the distinct impression that the two sides do not always work well together. Of course, I may be quite wrong about that.
Once in a very great while, Kevin and I talk ever so briefly about rental income, i.e., buying a rental property. But that's a big responsibility. Besides the legal responsibility, there's the self-imposed responsibility to provide housing that, at a minimum, I would rent. To be sure, there are worse rental properties than the current library building, but there are also certainly better. I would be thoroughly embarrassed to be the owner of a building that hadn't had its gutters cleared in who knows how many years (part of the reason so much water came in from the melted snow), that was missing gutters and downspouts, that had a damaged roof with one corner peeled back several yards, with a furnace that, AFAIK, was not on a maintenance schedule, etc. If Kevin and I don't call Georgie the plumber to do a yearly check of the furnace, flush the system, etc. (or do it ourselves), we only inconvenience ourselves when the thing doesn't work. Well, sure, it'll be cold, but we only screw ourselves and we only have ourselves to blame. I wouldn't feel at all comfortable about others losing heat in wintertime bco my actions or lack thereof. As it is, we have our hands full trying to maintain our own home, I can't imagine taking on the responsibility for someone else's home right now.
So. I wonder if a tenant-landlord relationship that doesn't have enough of the crucial interests in common is really the best setup for either party. With a residential arrangement, it's pretty clear what each party typically wants. The residential tenant likely wants a clean home; dependable, functional facilities; a dependable heating (and possibly cooling) system; reasonable security measures; fair and reasonable rental payments and increases; etc. With a business arrangement, the expectations are probably more complicated. The business tenant might want larger electrical capacity than the residential tenant. Tenants in a strip mall might expect the landlord to lease a dumpster and contract garbage removal services. In either case, the landlord ideally wants to make a profit; avoid costly and unncessary expenses; stay within the myriad codes applicable to rental properties; retain good tenants; etc.
There usually isn't an investment by the landlord in the tenant's purpose, i.e., the strip mall would like his tenants to be successful so they remain tenants (thereby saving the landlord the effort and expense of finding new tenants), but the landlord most likely doesn't share in the small business owner's dream and vision. And so I would not expect a landlord to be nearly as enthused about a library tenant's mission statement. They might be, but I imagine they more likely would not be. Perhaps James Holmes might have been such an enthused person, but he left his home to house a library upon his death, not during his lifetime.
And that, dear readers, is it for now.