RFPL Trustees approve lease for temporary library location

BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees met again on Monday night, this time approving a lease signing for 41 The Square, at Merchants Bank, as a temporary home for the library during construction.

The Trustees also approved $2,000 for moving expenses there and back, significantly lowering the estimated amount Library Director Celina Houlne had brought before the board just the week before, an amount she estimated at $7,000.

Houlne had to cancel the move planned for June 7 that would have had the alternative space open to patrons June 10 at the Merchants Bank location, as moving cost estimates caught the board by surprise.

At a May 6 meeting at the Village Square Booksellers, the board had discussed costs, estimated they would come in around $5,000, and agreed that was acceptable.

On June 4, Chair Jan Mitchell-Love and Trustee Hope Brissette proposed turning to volunteers when confronted with the actual numbers at which Houlne had arrived.

However, Houlne explained to the board that the bookshelves and books were packed and ready to be moved, and were too heavy and bulky for non-professionals to handle. They also noted the materials might be damaged without proper care in transit.

She also expressed concern for volunteers' safety.

Houlne further explained the moving company had provided large boxes that protected the books and made it possible to move more books at a time.

At the end of the June 4 meeting, Houlne announced she was going on a three-week medical leave, and librarians Sam Maskell and Emily Zervas would supervise the move.

“I was hoping to get this all wrapped up,” she told the board when they failed to approve the lease signing that night, but assured them that both Maskell and Zervas have managed in her stead before.

Maskell told The Commons that the trustees “agreed to approve the lease and authorized the chair to sign,” at their June 10 meeting.

“The trustees authorized up to $2,000 for total move costs (there and back), which will be spent at the staff's discretion,” Maskell wrote. “The staff has researched costs for movers and we'll be finalizing plans for the move over the next few days. Our goal is to be open in the new space as soon as possible. We know that the lack of library services has created a hardship for many in the community and the library has been missed by many others and we're looking forward to being available again.”

Meanwhile the trustees are under fire from community members who feel the board has mishandled the library closing, and are under investigation by the state attorney general over possible violation of open meeting laws.

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