Chief librarian says certification could be lost; Budget cuts “would result in significant layoffs”

A one million dollar budget cut to the Human Resources Department of Fitchburg, MA, may “result in significant layoffs” among employees of the city’s public library, says Chief Librarian Ann Wirtanen.

Wirtanen is also “concerned that closure is possible. It’s a distinct possibility, and I have not been assured otherwise.” The public library falls under the Fitchburg Human Services Department. The Human Resources Department, as well as the Police and Fire Departments, may each have funding reduced by as much as one million dollars.

Though the Fitchburg Public Library is open seven days a week, Wirtanen notes that a cut of this magnitude would close the facility for one or more days a week. The library has a proposed budget of $1.1 million.

Even if the library is not closed, it is certain that “in any of these scenarios, we lose certification,” said Wirtanen. The state Board of Library Commissioners may revoke certification if a municipality fails to fund minimum standards of public library service. Denied certification, notes Wirtanen, Fitchburg Public Library’s financial problems would compound: the library would lose state and federal grants.

According to Thomas J. Conry Jr., City Council President, the Council is discussion a Proposition override to provide emergency funding and thus preserve jobs and services. Though Conry does not support such an override, he would put the override on the ballot if a petition was submitted to Council.