Pinehurst has been nothing if not deliberative this year in its quest to parse every single detail and opinion in the village about the future of library services.
Beginning in January, the village, by its own numbers, collected responses from 386 residents to an online survey. It conducted two public hearings with 115 residents attending. It held four 90-minute “community conversations” with 53 volunteer residents — “who were carefully chosen,” according to a village report — to represent a cross section of the village. Then it conducted 26 interviews with village staff, council, business leaders, schools and folks with Given Memorial Library.
Yet the Village Council felt that feedback — the consultant summed it all up as support for a large new library — was insufficient, so it ordered up another community survey this summer.
Indeed, the council spent hours over several meetings poring over the nature of this survey and its questions, so as to get as full a picture of public input as possible.
The council wanted people, particularly, to know the financial implications.
And yet, all along, a critical piece of financial information was left out.
Only in Pinehurst
Early in the process, the board that operates the private Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives told the council and village staff it would donate half of its endowment — a seven-figure number — and the entirety of the library’s inventory to a new village-owned library.
So while the council wanted residents to have as full a picture as possible, it left out that the village would have more than a $1 million head start.
The offer of this gracious gift has not been widely discussed and certainly has not been part of the surveys and public communication. Is it because this might persuade residents that this is even more of a slam-dunk “yes”?
This was not a secret gift. Indeed, upset that their offer has not been part of the public discourse, more than 80 library benefactors signed a letter recently to the council — and asked it be published in The Pilot to bring attention to it. That letter was published this past Sunday.
“We think that residents should know of this substantial gift,” the letter reads. “This seems like an important piece of information for Pinehurst residents as they make up their minds about the library. What other village of our size can open a new library with a seven-figure endowment and a gift of more than 15,000 titles? Only in Pinehurst.”
‘An Awful Omission’
This Village Council has made no secret that taking on library services would be a large financial commitment. That is true. Construction would cost several million dollars, and annual operation could be close to $1 million.
Council members have said there are many competing priorities. That is also true.
But what’s also true is that this is not an either-or decision.
Mayor John Strickland has said that it’s premature to consider the library board’s million-dollar offer: “We’re very interested in what they have to offer but we haven’t gotten to that point yet because we need to first assess the results of the survey on specific uses.”
By that thinking, then, it would also be premature to discuss property tax implications, but that was in the survey.
Pinehurst has been spoiled for years having a privately operated library that it’s only kicking in $150,000 annually to help sustain. It’s still being spoiled by having a generous donation on the table to kickstart a new library.
When creating the latest online survey, council members said it should embody everything about building and running a library. As council member Judy Davis said, not including that information “would be an awful omission.”
Yet left out was the million-dollar endowment and massive collection with which a new library would operate.
An awful omission, to be sure. Awfully suspect.