Friday, 25 March 2011 00:00
The candidates for Manhasset Public Library Trustee were given questions by the Manhasset Press to enable the community to better understand their positions. Following are the questions and their answers.
Two candidates are running to fill one five-year-term on the Manhasset Public Library Board of Trustees being vacated by Richard Tortora. The candidates are Robert Carrozzo and David M. Ehrlich.
The League of Women Voters of Port Washington/Manhasset will sponsor a Candidates’ Night for the candidates running for Manhasset Library Board. The event will take place on Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. in the downstairs Community Room of the Manhasset Library.
The community is invited to attend.
- Pat Grace
1. What is the primary reason you are seeking this position?
Carrozzo: The library is a tremendous resource and the cultural hub of the community. My family and I have spent countless hours utilizing the facility and it is my strong desire that the library continues to grow and is enjoyed by a greater number of Manhasset residents.
Ehrlich: I feel it’s my civic responsibility to be an active participant in the institutions that are important to our community. Not only does my family personally use the library and its resources, but my friends and their children do so as well and we all recognize its key role. I feel personally responsible to make sure that the community is well represented with a passionate library advocate in these challenging times. Further, there are particular challenges the library faces that I am particularly well-suited to address, given my background and correct occupation.
2. What special qualifications or particular expertise do you bring to the position?
Carrozzo: As an attorney I am familiar and comfortable with negotiations involving contracts and costs. As a board member of a tax district, I am used to dealing with tax issues, governments and bureaucracy. As a small business owner, in these difficult economic times, I am responsive to the cost controls, financial needs, and the tax burdens on the residents of Manhasset. As a patron of the library, I am cognizant of the collection, tapes, programs, services, activities and facilities.
It will be my task to utilize these diverse skills to expand the collection and programs, embrace the new technologies available, and maintain the building in the most economically, fiscally responsible manner while minimizing the tax burden on the residents.
Ehrlich: My law firm is a small business. Many of the issues the trustees face, such as budgeting, responsiveness to the physical plant, responsiveness to employees, organizational issues, I deal with on a day-to-day basis. Also, as an attorney, particularly in the area that I practice, I have quite a bit of experience in negotiating contracts and understanding the costs associated with the arrangements. Currently, the role of public employees is undergoing a great degree of scrutiny. Many of the economic parameters that traditionally governed public employees are changing. Nevertheless, our library’s employees are an important asset and must be treated with respect and compensated consistent with community expectations. Balancing staff finance concerns with budget realities in a difficult economic climate must be addressed conscientiously. I believe I am particularly well-suited to address these issues as I must address them within my own business.
Also, I am involved in the “media” industry. I advise companies and individuals on their business dealings in a rapidly changing technological environment. The way authors are compensated for the books they write, the way musicians are compensated for the songs they record, the way book publishers are compensated for electronic copies—all of these are issues I am intimately involved with. I have deep understanding of technologies’ rapidly changing impact on society. We must understand that the library is not only intended as a depository of books, but an evolving depository of a number of resources including services and activities for the community. I will continue to make sure that the library serves all these purposes and enhance its ability to meet the needs of a diverse demographic. Not all segments of our community are comfortable with technology and our library must address their needs as well.
3. Did you attend any library board meetings before you decided to run for trustee? If so have you participated in discussions with trustees at board meetings?
Carrozzo: When the new building was being proposed I was very engaged in the discussions surrounding it. I have had one-on-one discussions with most of the board members. Over the years, I have been to board meetings and found them to be very informative. I encourage all residents to attend meetings when their time permits.
Ehrlich: I have spoken to former trustees, but I have not attended any meetings. I believe my fresh outlook could be advantageous.
4. Are you a member of the Friends of the Library? Have you attended meetings of the Friends of the Library? Do you have any ideas for making the Friends more involved and active as they are in neighboring communities?
Carrozzo: I am a proud member of the Friends. The Friends of the Library is an underutilized asset. They enhance the use, scope and diversity of the library’s collections, and it functions at no cost to the community. Both the library itself and the Friends must do a better job of educating the community as to their function. In talking with members of the community it appears that many have no idea that the Friends exist. While the Friends do have a presence on the website, I believe that their work should be documented more fully. All donors should be listed in the newsletter and website and all activities underwritten or supplemented by the Friends should be celebrated more prominently. More people will become active in the Friends if their generosity is publicized.
Ehrlich: I was not aware of the Friends of the Library until recently. One of my goals as trustee will be to disseminate more information about this organization so that the community is greatly aware of all the different assets that the library offers. One of my ideas for making the Friends of the Library more active is to involve some of our school children in the activities. To the extent that we can engage the youth of our community in library activities we can increase its popularity.
5. Can you attend the evening monthly meetings? Are you available for an emergency during the day if needed or in the middle of the night if necessary?
6. What is your experience with the library? Is any one area far better or worse than others? What do you consider its strengths and weaknesses, and what do you propose the library does about them?
Carrozzo: Having lived in Manhasset for over 20 years and having three children born and raised here, we use the library on a weekly basis. I believe that the library must track which books, tapes, programs, and services are most utilized and expand on them. Further we have to keep up with the new technology that is coming online. The e-books, Sony readers, Kindles, and other devices will come into more general use and the library will have to more easily service them. We must also monitor the physical use of the facility and the staffing thereof so that we deploy resources in the most economically expedient manner possible.
Ehrlich: I have lived in a number of communities. I grew up on Long Island, I lived in California for a long time, and now I live in Manhasset. I have found our local library to be strong in comparison to the other communities where I have lived. At Cornell, where I did my undergraduate studies, we had one of the largest library systems in the world. Although on quite a different scale, I have found that our library compares favorably. I find one of the strengths of our library is the way it has integrated technology into the loan-out system. What I feel we need to do is increase the use of technology to be proactive in informing the community about library events. We also need to work with the other library systems so that the interlibrary loan system can function even more effectively. We are also going to have to deal with the new requirements that publishers are rolling out in terms of the use of their electronic data. Some of the major publishers are already changing their policies with respect to borrowing e-books. I believe the same restrictions are going to occur with respect to other types of media such as DVDs and music. Meeting these challenges will be a necessary area of focus.
7. The library is organized as a school district library, which requires cooperation with the Manhasset School District. Have you any experience in working with school board members or with the staff of the school district?
Carrozzo: As a board member of a tax district I often need to coordinate the actions of various governmental entities. I feel that this is an area that can and should be more fully exploited to the mutual benefit of both institutions.
Ehrlich: I interact with school board members and staff through my son who attends Manhasset Middle School and my daughter who attends Munsey Park Elementary School. I continually talk to teachers and administration about maximizing the resources to the student’s benefit.
8. As a library user and after reviewing the Manhasset Library’s Long Range Plan and By-Laws, what is your vision for the library?
Carrozzo: I believe that my goals are in accordance with the library’s long-range plans. The overriding goal is to serve the greatest number of residents with the most diverse materials possible with the lowest tax impact.
Ehrlich: I have reviewed the applicable regulations and by-laws governing the library. My vision for the library is to see it increase its level of activity for all segments of the community. I would like to see more diverse cultural activities as well as programs related to health and career development.
9. Since increasing the number of Manhasset residents using the library would be a goal, what proposed strategy would you suggest to accomplish this?
Carrozzo: The residents of Manhasset will more fully utilize the library if they are kept informed of the many programs available. The current method of notification through e-mail and the newspaper is fine but the technology is not being fully exploited. We need to obtain a comprehensive master e-mail list for all Manhasset residents, hopefully with their preferences and interests so that future e-mails can be targeted specifically to their wants and needs. These targeted e-mails could then provide information on a daily basis.
Ehrlich: I tend to personally use my relationships in academia and in the cultural world to bring interesting programs to the library. I believe the library should serve as a meeting place for all segments of activities in the community. I also intend to work with the library staff to deal with the issues I discussed above. Also, I believe the library can serve our community in these difficult economic times by assisting in career development, networking, and tutoring and exam preparation. Basically, I’d like to see the library as a central meeting place for all segments of the community. We could also expand the notification database and develop the library’s social media sphere (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) to better publicize upcoming events.
10. Have you reviewed the library’s proposed budget? Do you agree with it or do you have suggestions for revision?
Carrozzo: The budget is comprised of certain costs that are fixed due to contracts or negotiation, such as debt service, salaries and taxes. Some costs cannot be neglected such as building maintenance, heating, and insurance. As a trustee, I would scrutinize every bill as it comes before us, to determine if we can get the same level of service for the lowest cost possible. It is my desire that no part of the collection, program or service be cut but the costs associated with the activity must be reduced.
Ehrlich: I have reviewed the budget. I have also discussed the budget with former trustees. While I do not want to be so presumptuous as to appear to be an expert in the nuances of allocation of library finances at this juncture, I think it is obvious that a large amount of resources goes to salaries, retirement, health benefits, and Social Security insurance. Due to the tremendous increases that are occurring in these areas, a discussion with the library employees in the negotiation of a new contract will be something we should be particularly focused on.
11. What do you think is the general public’s view of the library and do you think they are willing to support it with their taxes?
Carrozzo: I have always felt that Manhasset has a “Small Town Americana” feel to it. This feeling is fostered by the sense of community we have. Some of us are drawn together through school or church or sports or clubs but we all have access to the library. It is a meeting place, an educational institution, and a cultural hub. The very existence of the library creates this sense of community and it is one of the reasons that Manhasset is a desirable place to live. Even those unfortunate few who do not use the library enjoy the benefits that it provides in the higher property values it creates. We live in Manhasset, and Manhasset will always support the library, provided that we maintain the services that the people enjoy, and we do so in a financially responsible way.
Ehrlich: By speaking with my fellow citizens, most believe the library is a valuable resource. That said, it must be managed with an eye to the future while not forgetting about the role it has played in the past. The tax money used to support the library must be allocated in a fiscally responsible manner and it will continue to maintain community support.