CENTRAL FALLS — Call it a textbook definition of volunteerism. Thanks to a group of people who are donating their time, Central Falls residents will once again have access to the city's public library, which was recently closed due to the severe budget crisis.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 1, the Adams Memorial Library, at 205 Central Avenue, will be open from 12 noon to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
While the hours are now limited, Adams Board member Tom Shannahan is hoping to expand the schedule if more volunteers are willing to come forward to help out.
The situation is not ideal, Shannahan admits, as library patrons will only be able to have access to the books and materials that are presently in the Adams Memorial Library. Because of the shutdown by the city, the library can no longer be a member of the Ocean State Libraries statewide network that allows for books to be borrowed from libraries in other communities.
However, the library will at least be able to provide services for those who enjoy summer reading and youngsters with required reading and school assignments, as well as access to computers and the Internet.
Because of the changes, the board had to purchase its own, small “check-out” system to allow for the books and materials to be borrowed by local residents. The building will also be available for community meetings and other public events. “It's a 'Back to the Future' kind of thing,” Shannahan noted, wryly. “We will be a stand-alone library.”
Shannahan said that the three-member Adams Board, which includes Gerauld Adams, who serves as chairman, and Ken Bergeron, have been meeting ever since the announcement was made earlier this month that the library was being closed and its employees laid off by the state-appointed receiver, Robert G. Flanders. Flanders made to cuts as part of an effort to close an expected $5 million deficit in the coming year's city budget.
The library also has a Board of Trustees appointed by the city to oversee the municipal side of the operations, while the Adams Board is in charge of building and grounds maintenance.
Shannahan, who served as the library's director from 1984 to 2004, will be assuming these duties once again on Aug. 1. He said that the city of Central Falls owns and controls the Adams Memorial Library and has traditionally paid for its operation. “There is simply no money,” he said. “The (Adams) board has limited funds (about $100,000) that is primarily to be used for building and grounds. We have no money for salaries.”
“It's been a tough go,” said Shannahan. “But we're just going to take one step at a time. It will be a community library,” he said. He added that the receiver's closure of the library also affects its ability to receive about $62,000 in state aid. This aid is based on the library being funded by the host municipality at least to the amount of its previous year's operating budget, known as “maintenance of effort.” “But we no longer meet the standards for the state aid,” Shannahan lamented.
Shannahan said the board is planning a fund raiser for the library in mid-September, and hopes the facility will be the site of some other public events. He points to the beautiful building and rich history of the library and hopes to be able to make these the focus of some of the fund raising efforts.
The board is also looking for more volunteers. Anyone interested in helping out should call the library during the new hours at 727-7440.
Also known as the Central Falls Free Public Library, the Adams Memorial Library opened in 1910. Its Greek Revival building replaced a former library near Broad Street and Cross Street which was demolished to make room for the train depot, Shannahan said.
According to a historical website, the library was first organized in 1874 as the Pacific Library Association. The Adams Memorial Library exhibits paintings by Lorenzo deNevers, a Central Falls resident who painted portraits of two presidents while they were in office. Additionally, its Children's Room was once used a meeting place of the Sullivan Ballou Post No. 3, Grand Army of the Republic, made famous in filmmaker Ken Burns' PBS documentary on the Civil War.