Who Can Kill a Library? Apparently, we can.
Revised December 23, 2008

Bridgewater Brew?With the help of a local coffee enthusiast (moi?) the Friends of the Bridgewater Public Library now offers Bridgewater Brew from Dean's Beans. It has been a very successful fund-raiser so far, and I encourage residents and other library supporters to participate. Contact the library or the Friends for details about ordering this excellent coffee. Of course it is delicious, organic, and fair-trade.
On the day following a town election against library services, our then-10-year-old made this sign and posted it on our front door. I view it as an indictment of all of the adults in town who could not overcome our squabbling long enough to save the essential services of a library. We are now -- by far -- the largest town in Massachusetts without a certified library.

To their credit, the dedicated trustees and librarians have prioritized public services, and continue to provide as many services and hours as possible.  Although far from appropriate for a town our size, the services are far more than we deserve. Visit the BPL web site to see what hours and services are currently available.
Massachusetts Library License PlatesLibrary license plates proposed for sale in Massachusetts would raise awareness of the importance of libraries and provided much-needed funds. Such plates will not help Bridgewater Public Library in the short run, since it is not currently certified as part of a state system. But I hope Bridgewater residents will join me in signing up for these plates, because libraries everywhere are important -- and I have faith that BPL will eventually return to the fold.

Please note that plates are not yet available -- this is a pre-order process to determine interest.
These were some thoughts I posted on the library's blog following the "wake" for the Bridgewater Public Library, held September 18, 2007, a few days after people in the town of Bridgewater voted to cut most public services, inlcuding the library:

What is wrong with our town? What kind of place kills its library?

What has happened to all of the rhetoric about caring for children and valuing education? More to the point, what happened to all of the flag-waving and patriotism that erupted six years ago? Remember late 2001, when people claimed to care about their country, their community, and their neighbors? Where did all of that go? Did it blow away with all of those cheap plastic flags, because people did not mean any of it?

What do we tell our children? I am embarrassed for children -- my own or others -- to see me these days, because I am a Bridgewater "grownup" who could not stop the civic suicide of this town. What are we going to tell those teenagers skulking about town claiming there is nothing better for them to do, now that there really is nothing better for them to do?

Boston is the home of public libraries in America. Bridgewater is the home of public education in America. Both of these are the bedrock institutions of a healthy democracy. This is not a good time to be letting go of democratic institutions.

When will we make this better?
See also: February 7, 2008 article: Bridgewater library loses state certification. You can comment on this story at WickedLocal Bridgewater.
A couple of weeks later, voters partially reversed the damage. At town meeting on October 9, 2007, voters approved a plan that will keep the library limping along through June 30, 2008. The plan, proposed by the library trustees, relies heavily on the personal sacrifices of many dedicated librarians. My fear at the time was that some people would consider the problem solved by this stop-gap approach. It turns out, sadly, that I was correct.

Unfortunately, some citizens of Bridgewater choose to look at public services as a zero-sum game. Some of the least-principled among us prefer to blame specific departments for the budget problems of the town, rather than facing the fact that our willingness to pay for services has not been matching our expectations for services in the areas of public safety, education, or other critical services. Because nobody wants to move into a crumbling, poorly managed town that disdains children and seniors alike, property values are in a freefall.

My rough estimate is that this short-sighted approach has taken $50,000,000 or more -- probably much more -- out of the value of property in town, all to save a few hundred bucks a piece on taxes!

Although Bridgewater is by far the largest town to close its library, we are not alone. Our fellow citizens in Saugus, Massachusetts are trying to prevent a similar catastrophe. I wish them well!

WBUR in Boston has noticed our plight. Listen to "Bridgewater Broke" to hear more about the problem and its causes. Please also see Rebecca Starcevic's excellent article about the crisis in the Brockton Enterprise.

Return to Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's Environmental Geography page.

All opinions expressed here are those of Dr. Hayes-Bohanan, who cherishes the First Amendment! If free speech is a religion, libraries are its churches.