When the West Tisbury Library opened in 1993, it was already too small. A frantic patchwork of low-cost space solutions over the years have never kept up with growing demand for library services. For well over a decade we have struggled with a severe shortage of space for patrons, materials, programs and staff. Today we have the Island’s largest collection and the highest circulation, but the smallest facility (except for Aquinnah). The fact that the West Tisbury Library has been recognized nationally as one of the best small libraries in America is a tribute to the staff’s ability to do so much with so little.
This year our town could qualify for a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners that would pay over $3 million toward the renovation and expansion of our library. The grant is of an unprecedented size, and it is unlikely that it will be offered again. These funds are already committed to construction of public libraries in Massachusetts towns. The only question is which towns. West Tisbury deserves the chance to compete for these funds.
Many West Tisbury residents are working hard to ensure that we qualify for this grant. We have conducted public forums and surveys over three years to gather public opinion. A nonprofit foundation has been formed and is conducting a capital campaign. The town has appointed a building committee that has been meeting since April of 2010. The Friends of the West Tisbury Library have contributed over $75,000 for preliminary plans. That we have accomplished these steps puts us in a good position to be awarded this grant.
At our annual town meeting on April 12, voters will be asked to approve two warrant articles, 18 and 19, regarding the West Tisbury Free Public Library. The wording, which was provided by the state, is formal but nonbinding. The passage of these articles makes us eligible to receive a grant. This is the first part of a two-part process. Following this year’s vote, if we receive a state grant, and if private funding is in place, then we will return to the voters, in 2012 for approval to proceed with the project.
Neither of these articles constitutes a commitment by voters or by the town to raise or appropriate money. Neither of these articles requires West Tisbury to commit to the design or proceed with the project when it is presented for town approval in April 2012.
Dan Waters is a member of the West Tisbury library board of trustees. This was excerpted from a mailing to town voters.