Medical marijuana cash windfall has Wareham officials optimistic about library's future

Mar 27, 2018

After four years operating on a shoestring budget and without state certification, a windfall has Wareham Free Library and town officials optimistic that patrons will soon have a fully staffed, certified library.

Wareham Free Library Director Michael Carlozzi said the news comes right on schedule. One year ago, he appeared before Selectmen with a plan to regain state certification by this summer, and it appears that’s going to happen.

Certified libraries must be open at least 40 hours a week, spend 12 percent of the total budget on materials and have a director with a master’s degree. The last requirement was met in 2016 when Carlozzi – who once worked as a library page in Wareham – was hired.

On March 22, the town provided the final piece of the puzzle in the form of a planned $51,000 contribution to library’s budget for the coming fiscal year. The remaining funds will be given to Wareham Public Schools. With a mix of town money and privately raised funds, the library’s operating budget will be approximately $370,000.

Selectman Alan Slavin said the funds will come from the developers of a medical marijuana facility slated to open this summer in town. As part of the facility’s agreement with Wareham, at least $100,000 will be paid to the town the first year that it opens. In 2019, developers will pay Wareham $125,000 and then $150,000 in 2020.

With the funds, the library will be able to keep services at a level that will allow it to keep its certification moving forward should it regain certification this summer.

“It should be enough to have a sustainable, certified library – a pretty good one, too” said Carlozzi.

Over the past year, library officials met the other two requirements, using a mix of municipal funds and money raised by two steadfast groups, the Friends of the Wareham Free Library and the Wareham Free Library Foundation.

Carlozzi credited those groups keeping the library going when its future was in doubt after voters defeated a proposition 2 1/2 override in 2014.

“Without them the library likely would have closed,” said Carlozzi.

The measure would have raised funds for several town agencies by raising property taxes. When it failed, the library’s budget was slashed by more than half, going from $295,637 in 2014 to $125,000 in 2015. The town's appropriation to the library in 2013 was $423,515.

Without certification, the library lost up to $15,000 in funds from the state, the ability to apply for grants from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and access to materials from libraries across the state.

Carlozzi said with certification, Wareham Free Library patrons will again be able to borrow books and materials from nearly every library in Massachusetts.

Additionally, Carlozzi said he’s looking to hire a reference librarian and move children’s librarian Marcia Hickey back into the children’s room full time. Those changes will give staff more time to focus on assisting patrons, he said.

Carlozzi said he can apply to the state for recertification in July. It’s not a guarantee, but having followed state regulations for the past year, along with a strong commitment from the town, he’s optimistic about the library’s chances after four years.