The project to build an eleven-million-dollar new Edgartown Library at the site of the old elementary school is nearly ready to begin. After many years of false starts and struggles to find a clear direction and support from townspeople, the plan finally found solid footing last year with funding from a generous state grant, the firm backing of voters and a suitable location at the former Edgartown School. That a small town could find the collective will and funding for such a project in such an uncertain economy should be cause for pride and celebration.
Against that backdrop, it is disheartening to see the divisive carping that has cropped up in recent weeks between elected town leaders and the nonprofit Edgartown Library Foundation. The foundation was formed eight years ago to raise private funds when the leading proposal was to renovate and expand the old Carnegie building where the library is now housed. Those plans are now all history, but spokesmen for the foundation have balked at turning over whatever sum they still have in their coffers that could be used for the new library, believed to be about one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars. Last week the selectmen had choice words for foundation leaders about the issue, and this week the town library trustees voted to sever all ties with the foundation and bar it from using the library’s logo. Selectmen have asked their town counsel for advice on how to proceed.
The foundation has been helpful in the past in supporting library projects with private funds, but has probably outlived in usefulness. It is not clear whether donors who gave money to the foundation did so with particular expectations, but the foundation should quickly determine what funds can be given without strings to the new library or give it back.
As the town embarks on a what should be a bright new venture to build a free public library for present and future generations, any private fundraising efforts should be under the auspices of the library trustees to ensure public accountability and transparency.
The community deserves no less.