It was a surprise to me, when we first started researching Grafton, to discover the town had not one, not two, but three public libraries. The town really didn’t seem big enough to justify three separate buildings, but I figured that maybe Grafton was just a highly literate town, dedicated to the printed word.
Growing up, I practically lived at the Bellingham Library, a tiny brick building that was haunted by a ghost with a sense of humor — you could always find a cold spot lingering around the research room at the books marked with the Dewey Decimal signifier of 130. Norma, one of the librarians, introduced me to books and authors that remain my favorites to this day. Bellingham eventually outgrew its little brick building and built a lovely new library near the high school; it doesn’t have a helpful ghost, but my daughter now loves to visit there with her grandmother to read in the bright children’s room.
We happily explored the three libraries in Grafton after moving here but were still puzzled as to why there were three of them. The children’s room in the main library, near the Common, seemed cramped, especially after our years with the Northborough Library. Nelson was a newer facility, but its hours never quite seemed to jibe with ours. South Grafton, in size, reminded me of my childhood library, but both times we dropped by, we ended up stopping back at the main library for a better selection.
Anyway, this is all roundabout, it came as no surprise to hear that the Library Trustees have decided to close both Nelson and South Grafton as of Jan. 1, 2009. The town’s going to be hard-pressed to level-fund its budget and three buildings, with the cost of heating, lighting, staffing and stocking them, seem to be a luxury.
Of course, the problem is, none of the buildings are the perfect stand-alone library. The main branch isn’t handicapped accessible and the parking lot is tiny; I don’t see much room for expansion there. There’s also a letter in this week’s Grafton News that notes that Nelson is completely funded, save for its librarians, by a trust fund — so what ends up happening to the trust fund?