Three candidates vie for two Peterborough Library Trustee seats

  • Three candidates vie for two spots on the Peterborough Library Trustee board. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Three candidates vie for two spots on the Peterborough Library Trustee board. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Three candidates vie for two spots on the Peterborough Library Trustee board. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/4/2017 6:52:55 AM

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Peterborough Library Board of Trustees at Town Meeting on May 9. 

Incumbents Marcia Patten and Ronald Bowman are seeking re-election, while first-time candidate Chris DiLoreto looks to take over one of their seats. 

DiLoreto, who is a self described far-left socialist, announced his campaign for library trustee via a YouTube video that he posted to Facebook on April 14. It begins with an aerial shot of the town of Peterborough with the words “free” and “fair” popping up on the screen shortly after the video starts to roll. As a socialist, DiLoreto points to libraries as places that are operated solely off the public good, and points to the model as proof that socialist principals can work.

“As a lifelong lover of libraries, and among government services the library really most closely reflects my values as a socialist,” DiLoreto said in an interview. 

Originally from Townsend, Massachusetts, DiLoreto, his wife Kellie, and three young sons settled in Peterborough in December of 2014.

“For years I’ve thought about running for office, I’ve wanted to, and I’ve recommended it to other people, but this is actually the first time I live somewhere I know I’m not going to leave,” DiLoreto said.

He saw a town office opening listed in the Ledger-Transcript, and decided to file his candidacy in hopes of filling one of two open seats up for re-election on the library trustee board.

“I don’t think that anyone is doing a bad job, or that the library needs reform or anything like that,” DiLoreto said. “But I want someone on the board who is specifically dedicated to speak on behalf of the poor, the unemployed, the single parents, the underemployed, which is really an increasing thing.”

Of course, he doesn’t think that he’s going to change the entire landscape of local government to make it more equitable for the poor through the position, but he said he can work closely with the library director, staff members, and other library trustee members to make the library a more helpful place for a wider range of people.

“The board of trustees sets line items for the budget,” DiLoreto said. “And I would ask what could we do to make it more accessible? Is it a software package? Or maybe a staffer that focuses on expert legal resources, or local, town, or state resources to help them get what they need.”

He said some of that could be done by simply spreading the word to let people know what services the library already provides, so more people tap into its resources. As a writer, podcaster and a person who understands various social media platforms, he said he can help do that.

DiLoreto also hopes his campaign proves that socialists are capable and credible people. Too often, he said, socialists are seen as people who attend rallies, but don’t actually implement change.

“[Socialists] don’t take the time to prove ourselves in a lot of cases, we don’t take the time to show people that we can trust us,” DiLoreto said “... And that’s part of why I’m running. Yes, it’s a very small thing being a library trustee in the grand scheme of the government of the United States, but I think that’s where it starts with really small things.”

DiLoreto said he hopes his campaign inspires other young people in the community to participate in their local government, which he says is desperately lacking.

At the end of his YouTube video, DiLoreto says his first campaign pledge will be to return a stack of overdue library books. In an interview last week, DiLoreto said he has already fulfilled that campaign pledge. Now, all that’s left to do is get elected.

Marcia Patten

With the hiring of a library director in the rearview, incumbent Marcia Patten has her sights on the structural changes that need to be made to the library.

“We don’t have enough meeting space, and that’s a real problem. Until last month we had one meeting room, and if the trustees wanted to use it well …” Patten, who has served on the board for two terms, said trailing off.

More, she said, the meeting room has issues, saying that it’s “hard to hear” if you’re sitting at a large table. There are also problems with the physical structure, Patten said, including certain places on the floor where stacks can’t be placed because it wouldn’t hold the weight.

There’s a committee that was formed to handle the design and raising the funds called the 1833 Society, although Patten said the group reports to the board of trustees from time-to-time. She said there was an event hosted about five years ago designed to incorporate community feedback on what people would like to see happen to the library, notes that have been boiled down into a 84-page document, and even further into bullet points.

“Everybody decided to go ahead and keep the old building, but there’s the 1957 portion and 1977 addition, we would like to take those out and replace them with the new building,” Patten said.

She said a committee has been working with an architect to finish up designs, and there still needs to be planning about what will go into that space. Even though there’s still a lot of work to be done, she said the concept is hopefully not too far out from being presented to the select board. It’s unclear how much the changes are going to cost at this time.

Patten, who is now retired but worked in the newspaper industry for a long time (Patten is a former Ledger-Transcript editor), said it’s a natural fit that she is invested in the library where one can go to do research. But, she said, she understands that a modern library is not all about books.

“It can also be a meeting place for people to come. It’s also a technologically advanced place for the people who don’t have computers or small businesses that need more computers,” she said.

She said a library trustee needs to be aware of the changing library landscape while also being aware of the history that makes it so unique.

“History is important,” she said, noting that the location is the first free public tax-supported library in the country and possibly even the word.

She says she’ll keep the old and the new in mind if re-elected.

Ronald Bowman

Library trustee incumbent Ronald Bowman said he too is focused on preserving the history of the library while simultaneously developing one for the future.

“We’re careful to note that a library can’t be a stagnant body, it needs to change on a constant basis almost,” Bowman said. “if you’re standing still, you’re falling behind. We’re really excited about what we can offer in the future.”

That spans everything from content that’s housed in the library to the programming it offers. In order to provide a library for the future, the physical structure needs work, he said.

“We’re very much aware of the shortcomings of the structure, a couple of additions to the building have deteriorated, and it’s inefficient to heat,” Bowman said. “We recognize that tomorrow’s library needs not only to be technologically up-to-date, but that the structure itself needs to be up-to-date.”

Bowman, who has served two terms on the board, wasn’t born in Peterborough, but he was raised here and, aside from leaving to serve in the Army, has lived here his entire life.

“This is my home,” Bowman said, adding that he has always thought it important to work in the community in which you live.

He served on the town’s fire department for 25 years, retiring as deputy chief.

Later, Bowman said he decided to serve on the trustee board.

“I thought, ‘I’ve been riding by that library for 50 years, it’s time to step in and step up,’” Bowman said.

During his tenure on the board, Bowman said he’s proud of the current staff. He said he’s also proud of the work he’s done to reach out to the community.

One of the things the trustee board has done is send out fliers asking the public to comment on what they expect of their library. It became clear that the community expects the board to be a “center of communication.”

With that knowledge, the library has created programming that attempts to cater to that need. Bowman pointed to a new entry-level computer course, which is so popular that it’s reservation only, as a way the library is fulfilling that request from the community. He said children’s programming is also popular, and draws young families into the library.

“This is not a place where books are deposited, it’s a place where you can go to share information,” Bowman said.

And watching people interact in the library is why Bowman wants to continue to serve.

“What do I get out of it? I like seeing the expressions on the faces of the patrons in there in particular. And I like to feel like I continue to contribute to the community,” he said. “... I feel a responsibility to give back. This community has been very good to me and my family.”

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