City budget cuts mean Pioneer Room staff will be all-volunteer; hours to be trimmedAs of Jan. 1, 2012, the City of Hastings’ historic reference library, the Pioneer Room, will see its hours cut by more than half. The change is a result of the city’s proposed 2012 budget, which cuts funding for a paid curator.
By: Katrina Styx, The Hastings Star-Gazette
As of Jan. 1, 2012, the City of Hastings’ historic reference library, the Pioneer Room, will see its hours cut by more than half. The change is a result of the city’s proposed 2012 budget, which cuts funding for a paid curator.
The Pioneer Room is a historic reference library focused on collecting and preserving local records and artifacts and making them accessible to the public.
Community Development Director John Hinzman said the Pioneer Room is a unique feature to the City of Hastings, and one the city wanted to continue to make available to the public.
“We’re looking to keep it open through volunteers,” he said.
Knowing they had to make cuts for next year’s budget, the city thought the Pioneer Room was an area where volunteers would be able to assist in the absence of paid staff. They were right, at least for now. The room’s current curator, Cindy Thury Smith, has volunteered to continue working there without a salary. Joining her will be two others who have given much of their time to collecting and preserving local history, Shirley Dalaska and Dick Darsow.
Rather than keeping the room open and staffed two and a half days, as it is currently, it will only be open Wednesdays.
The Pioneer Room’s acquisitions budget had already been cut, meaning Smith can’t add new books or artwork to the collection like she used to.
“The collection won’t be expanding, but we’re hoping to maintain it,” she said.
Between now and January, Smith and Dalaska, a regular volunteer already, have a few projects to finish. One is completing the obituary index through the end of this year. They’re also working to copy, clip and file newspaper articles through the end of this year as well. Once that’s done, they can simply save whole newspapers for whoever manages the room after they’re done. Some reference books are getting reorganized in chronological order so researchers using the room can more easily find them without the assistance of a volunteer.
Earlier this year, Smith and Dalaska released a book on Civil War veterans from Hastings. With the release, they had asked for more contributions in order to publish an addition to the book at a later date. They still hope to gather more stories and publish the new information, Smith said.
A project that won’t get finished – at least without outside donations – is re-binding a set of Hastings City Council meeting minutes from the early 1900s. Smith said she was able to find the money do all but two of the handwritten volumes, up to 1911. But with no money left to finish them, and a price tag of about $250 per book, it looks like the last two books will have to wait.
The public will still be able to walk into the Pioneer Room on Wednesdays after Jan. 1, and can still email Smith at email@example.com or leave messages by calling 651-480-2367.
Until the new budget goes into effect, the Pioneer Room is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon.