Tough times at Pember

Diminished funds used to operate the Pember Library and Museum of Natural History has led to a reduction in the hours of operation, the Pember’s executive director said.

Pember Library and Museum Executive Director Pat Wesner said the outright loss of a $20,000 state grant typically used for operating the Pember, combined with other reduced grants and investment returns have cut the amount of funding available for the day to day operation of the historic institution.

“Our budget is dependent on grants to run the place; it’s mostly state money,” Wesner said. “The grants have been cut back and we’re still not sure with the rest of the ones that come from the state.”

“We are having to tighten our belts like everyone else and one of the easiest things to do is change (hours),” Wesner said.

The change results in the reduction of four hours of operation each week and Wesner said the Pember was able to make the cuts to hours with typically lower attendance to have the least amount of impact on patrons.

As a side effect of the international economic crisis, investments made by and for the Pember are not producing the same yields, further reducing operating funds.

“There are just no returns on our investments – no dividends,” Wesner said.

The net effect is less money to operate the Pember with and something had to give, so it was with one of the big-ticket items – heat.

Heating the 100-year-old building is the major difficulty, Wesner said. With an aging heating system and an older building, heating costs are her chief focus to help keep costs down … so much so that employees bundle up rather than turn the heat up.

“We have to have the heat on for the collection, but I don’t want to turn it up unless I have to,” Wesner said.

The cutbacks have meant some personal sacrifices for the staff members. Wesner chuckles when asked about other cuts before revealing that she works with a small electric space heater under her desk and she is wearing boots and long johns. In the hours before opening, Wesner said it is common to find librarian Ardyce Bresett dressing for comfort with an extra layer or two. 

“Then I don’t have to heat the whole building for one person or two people, it’s not worth it to turn the heat up,” she said.

Some times work is done away from the Pember to prevent heating the building for just one person.

“With the advent of the Internet there’s a lot of stuff can be done from home,” Wesner said.

“If it ends up not being a real cold winter and the price (of oil) stays down we’ll go back,” she said.

Wesner said she does not expect to have to reduce the hours any further, but everything depends on the state of the economy.

“We’ll just have to take it as it goes; see how the economy goes because what happens in the economy affects us. We’re invested as much as everybody else is when there aren’t dividends, we suffer,” Wesner said. 

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