Fundraiser must ‘Bridge the Gap’ in library budget

Feb 20, 2021

After covid-19 canned annual plans for a play and an author talk and dinner, the Wareham Library Foundation is left scrambling for funds to make sure the library is able to maintain its certification.

Without the necessary funding, the Wareham Free Library might be forced to cut down its hours, and patrons could lose the ability to borrow books, DVDs and other materials from nearby libraries.

To prevent that outcome, the Foundation is asking residents for donations to its “Bridge the Gap” fundraiser. As the name implies, the fundraiser is designed to help the library’s fundraising entities bridge the gap between the funding provided by the town and the total funding the library needs to operate and remain certified.

President of the Wareham Library Foundation Liz Wiley said it was important for Wareham residents to understand that although the library is town-owned and operated, the town only provides 80 percent of the library’s operating budget. The Foundation and Friends of the Wareham Free Library contribute the rest of the money.

“The remaining 20 percent of the budget is made up by fundraising events,” Wiley said. “It’s not just extra money for the library. It’s actually operating cost funding for the library.” 

Wiley said that 20 percent of the library’s operating budget is approximately $80,000 — and added that the Foundation and Friends of the Library have until the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to raise the money. By Wiley’s estimate, the library has raised approximately $22,500 so far. 

She said the fundraising efforts are important because, without the additional funding, the library could lose its certification or be forced to limit its operating hours and reduce its staff.

“The town will remember we went through a period where we had lost certification because we didn’t have the annual budget that we needed to to keep certification,” Wiley explained. “That means that we can’t participate in the SAILS Network.”

The SAILS Network, which the library currently participates in, is a program that enables libraries in Southeastern Massachusetts to share resources including books and other materials. 

To participate in the network, Library Director George Ripley explained that the library must continue to meet specific benchmarks, such as providing basic library services free of charge, remaining open for a certain number of hours each week, having a director with a master’s degree and spending a certain amount of their budget each year on materials.

Like Wiley, Ripley said that without donations the library could lose its certification — meaning Wareham residents would lose access to the wide range of library resources available through the SAILS Network. 

“The support that we get from the Wareham Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library is essential to maintaining the library services that the residents of Wareham need and deserve,” Ripley said. “Especially in these times of covid when access to information, books, DVDs, audiobooks and more is vital to the community.”

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented many of the Foundation’s usual annual fundraising events, Wiley said.

“Covid has really restricted us with our ability to fundraise,” Wiley said. “Usually, annually we do an author event; we do a play; we do our annual appeal.”

Safety concerns still prevent those in-person fundraising events, so the Foundation has focused on raising awareness and funds through other means. Wiley said the Foundation kicked off its “Bridge the Gap” fundraiser by sending out annual appeal letters in December 2020.

She said the Foundation has also been sharing information about the fundraising efforts online using social media. Residents can donate using the “donate” button on the Foundation’s website at Alternatively, checks can be mailed to Wareham Library Foundation, P.O. Box 485, East Wareham, MA 02538.