October 1, 2010

Masons' move riles librarians

Librarians are livid over this book donation receptacle, 
which arrived unannounced and is stationed directly across from the library on the Masonic lodge property. Library officials worry it will cut into book donations that help support library programs and perhaps cause confusion and intercept library material dropped mistakenly by unsuspecting patrons. 
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Perhaps good fences do make good neighbors, but book donation Dumpsters next to libraries?
Could be a problem.
“It just showed up – we were very surprised, and we're concerned,” said Derry Public Library Director Cheryl Lynch of the gotbooks.com receptacle that was delivered Wednesday to the library's longtime neighbor, the Masonic Temple.
The large metal container faces the small parking lot that the two organizations have shared – not so amicably – for years. In large purple-and-yellow lettering the book box reads, “Donate Books.”
Lynch fears library patrons will mistake it for a library book drop, especially knowing that the Friends of the Derry Libraries accept book donations for its monthly book sales that directly benefit both the town's libraries.
“That is my biggest concern,” said Lynch yesterday. “Especially in the dark, when you can't read what it says. If someone happens to put library materials in there and then comes in here in a panic to say they just threw their stuff in there, how are we going to get it out? It will mean serious bills for people to cover replacement costs, not just late fines.”
Beyond the fear of losing precious library books, tapes and CDs, Lynch said the library depends on revenue from the monthly sales to its share of the town's tight annual budget. Lynch must sustain 30 full and part time staff salaries, keep up with building maintenance and support programming.
“I'm wondering how much they make on a Dumpster full of books – how much does it pay the Masons to have that receptacle there? I don't want to deny anyone a fundraising opportunity, but having a book drop 125 feet from the library's door?”
George Chapman, acting master of the Masons, said yesterday his organization was just looking for a new way to earn a little money to support local charities. The group saw an ad in a local newspaper, and followed up on it.
“I guess the library didn't see the ad, or maybe they would have gotten one, too,” said Chapman yesterday. “When it's full we'll get six cents a pound for the books. They'll empty it out and we'll collect some more books. We took about two months to think about it before we put it to a vote, but we decided it was a good idea.”
Chapman said the Masons have their own struggles, including keeping up with town fire codes. Money to make necessary fixes or reorganize boxes of paperwork will come in handy.
“The fire department said if we don't get rid of all our cardboard storage boxes we'll have to install a fireproof ceiling, which will cost us at least $2,000,” Chapman said.
According to the Massachusetts-based gotbooks.com website, books collected in their book drop receptacles are recirculated in one of several ways – either sent to military troops overseas, made available to teachers for free or discounted prices to use in classrooms, or resold at their Used Book Superstores around Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, including locations in Salem and Nashua.
They also donate books to libraries.
Chapman said the Masons never considered that it might be encroaching on library territory by soliciting book donations.
“That parking lot by our building is private, and library customers have been using it for years and years. We try to accommodate them without friction, and I think the library should remember that if it's going to cause any resistance,” Chapman said. “We don't want to have to put up a barrier or get into any silly neighborhood fight.”
Lynch said she doesn't want the issue to become inflamed, either. But she's afraid it will.
“They didn't say anything to us – in fact, when they were delivering the box, someone from the Masons came over to find out who was parked over there – they had to move their car. He didn't say as much, but when I told him this would be a serious blow to our fundraising efforts, he seemed to shrug it off,” Lynch said.
Chapman, who was in charge of directing the delivery guys Wednesday, said the Masons have committed to having the receptacle in place for one year.
“After that, we'll see. Maybe the library will decide to park one across the street, too,” Chapman said. “We aren't trying to rile anyone over there; it's just a matter of geography that we're neighbors.”

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