Trustees’ Report for August 2014

Trustee Report for Board Meeting, August 21, 2014

Old Business

  1. Assessment of the Bigelow Free Public Library’s (BFPL) Older Holdings: Update

The Need: The BFPL has a chronic shortage of shelf space on which to display an up-to-date and visually attractive library collection that is relevant to today’s Clinton residents. Surveys completed by the public as part of recent public input into the library’s 2014 Five-year Strategic Plan confirm the community’s desire for a larger borrowing collection, especially for adult and young adult patrons. Obtaining more books is easy. Three hundred thousand new books are published in the United States each year! But because space in the library is extremely limited, where to put numbers of these books in the BFPL and develop the library collection BFPL patrons are requesting is the challenge the BFPL Trustees are currently engaged in. The challenge includes reviewing and determining what to do with the library’s older collection, which, for the most part, includes books that have not been requested for many, many years. During this review and determination process, which is ongoing, books and materials from the older collection will remain in the library.

Composition of the Older Holdings: The BFPL’s older holdings are housed in the library’s closed stacks, areas of the building which do not comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These older holding are predominately print materials. A significant number of the older collection dates back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Given the age and condition of the books, they are reference books only; they cannot be loaned out. Even if the library wanted to, the BFPL does not have the resources to provide the specific maintenance requirements of a large non-circulating antiquarian collection. The Trustees are mindful, however, of the need to know the composition of the older collection in order to make an appropriate policy decision regarding the items in the older collection.

Assessment Process: As the Trustees have reported in two previous reports: “The Bigelow Free Public Library in Today’s Digital Age of Library Services”, an interim report prepared by the Board of Library Trustees that was made public on February 20, 2014, and “Bigelow Free Public Library: Older Collection History, Update 1”, made public on March 20, 2014 (see for both documents), the Trustees have implemented an ongoing thorough evaluation and assessment of the older collection for both any monetary value and  also for the value of the holdings as they relate to the history of the BFPL and the Town of Clinton.

Professional Consultation: Since January 2014, eight professional books appraisers have visited the library (some have visited twice), reviewed the BFPL’s older holdings and provided professional advice on the antiquarian nature and value of the collection. (Just because a book is old does not guarantee it has a monetary value.) These eight appraisers were selected with reference to information available from Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers (MARIAB), a professional antiquarian booksellers’ member organization that provides details of appraisers’ areas of specialty and scale of operation. The Trustees sought out appraisers who had experience with large book collections.

The Trustees have also consulted with preservationists and obtained information regarding the cost of relocating the entire older collection off-site in air-quality controlled conditions appropriate for very old books and materials.

Development of a BFPL Historical Collection: Currently, the Trustees are identifying representative items in the older collection that are of historical interest to the library. These representative items will remain in the library and become the BFPL’s historical collection that will be on display on a rotating basis (see the library’s 2014 Five-Year Strategic Plan). At this time the Trustees are doing due diligence and examining every book, including its accessibility to the public in a digitized form.

The selection criteria for items that are of historical interest to the library are based on how they represent the history of the:

  1. Formation of the BFPL (its evolution from an early private collection to a free public library)
  2. 19th and early 20th century BFPL collection
  3. Printing and illustration techniques of the 19th and 20th centuries
  4. Town of Clinton and surrounding area
  5. Culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries (classical and popular cultural examples)

Relinquishing town property: Ultimately, items from the older collection that are not retained for the BFPL’s historical collection will be relinquished. Since the older collection is town property, the Trustees must follow the requirements of relinquishing town property and the procedure as described under Massachusetts General Law which safeguards against unfair advantages during the procedure. There must be public notice of this procedure.