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POLL: For Wilton's 'Heart,' Only Two-Percent of the Budget

In light of recent disaster-relief effort, is the two-percent share of Wilton's budget adequate for the Wilton Library?

During the recent blackouts, Wiltonians needed a place to convene, chat, and charge their electronics. There were several places to choose from, including the , and , but it’s clear that the was the town’s focal point for relax-and-recharge activity. Just check some about October Storm Alfred for proof:

“The Wilton Library keeps its website up to date. The Wilton Library is open earlier and stays open later to have internet access, warmth, electricity and Halloween candy available to its patrons. Wilton Library - the heart of the community,” said .

“The first place I went when I could get out of the driveway was the library, because they're the center for all the info & it’s posted right on their door,” said .

“I also want to give a BIG and LOUD shout out to our various community-based organizations - Wilton Y, Wilton Library and Trackside. They once again demonstrated what being a member of the community is about. They set a very high bar that we should all try and reach in the "high calling of our daily work,” said

“On Facebook, I friend the Y, the local churches, etc. The library is pretty good about tweeting. They are open now, with internet and heat!” said

“Additionally I think the Wilton Y and Wilton Library deserve a special thanks for opening their doors to the community without hesitation and at no cost to people who were non-members,” said .

Some quick facts about the library, obtained from

  • The library’s budget is about 2.15-percent (or $2,431, 077) of .  It gets 75-percent of its funding from the town. The rest of the money comes from private donations; using these numbers, the total budget of the library is roughly $3,241,436.
  • It employs 30 FTE employees and 25 part-time workers, including students.
  • Last year, the library hosted 849 programs.
  • About 334,000 items were checked out in 2010. This includes books, movies, and magazines.
  • It receives about 5,000 visits every week.
  • During Hurricane Irene, Leeds said that there were about 10,000 visits in five days (number of visits during Alfred are forthcoming—check for it in the comments).

With so much recent disaster-relief efforts, should the library be awarded a higher budget by the town?

With a bigger budget, before stocking up on more materials (There’s always something to buy, said  Leeds), Leeds and Wilton Library Association Board of Trustees President Judy Higby agreed that better wages for staff would be first priority.

The library could “get close to compensating our staff for the amazing degree” of work that they put out, said Leeds.

“We really fell well supported by the town. I think they [the people] have grown to understand the library, but I don’t think that’s always been the case. It’s so central to the town’s life,” said Higby.

“Wilton has made the library choice,” said Leeds. “We really rely on that 75-percent from the town,” said Leeds. “That 75-percent keeps the hours the same, keeps the headcount the same. Events and stuff are from donors.”

Just like the blackout aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the library extended its hours yet again after Alfred, welcoming in hundreds of people without power (). Higby and Leeds said they would like the library to be open longer, seven days a week, which would place the library on par with the operating hours of Darien Library; Darien is open 69 hours a week, while Wilton Library is open for 59 hours. 

The library isn’t actively searching for an increase in its budget, though. The staff is happy just being a vital—and humble—part of the community.

“What was more exciting about it [the influx of people] was that people were so grateful and so unaccustomed to what we offer here. People were really, really, really appreciative,” said Leeds. After Irene, the library received $2,000 in donations.

The library is more than just a place to rent materials from, said Leeds.

“Part of it is [people] wanting to be somewhere comfortable. What the library means to the town goes beyond just a place with lights, air conditioning, books, and materials. It’s a place you can be with other people. We’ve since this during 9/11, during hurricanes, during the earthquake, during incredible heat waves—times [when people] want to be together. There’s no natural gathering place in Wilton where people go to see each other,” said Leeds.

“We took that dark area of confusion and insecurity [after 9/11] and shone a light on it,” said Higby.

And “if someone wants to give us a [new] generator, we’ll name it after them,” she laughed. 

Craig Donofrio November 15, 2011 at 04:23 PM
The library received about 12,000 visitors during the blackout period of Oct. storm Alfred, according to Leeds. For those of you voting for re-allocation funds, where should it come from?
EMR November 15, 2011 at 05:38 PM
reallocate from other budgets connected with education surplus

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