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Letter: Library Budget

“Libraries in the Digital Age,” a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project, found that 91 percent of Americans 16 or older say that public libraries are important to their communities, and 76 percent say libraries are important to them and their families.

I know that Port residents are probably reflected in this study, and that you too see the value of your library. It’s apparent to us that the availability of computers and Internet services is as fundamental to libraries as books and reference help, and we are committed to meeting and keeping up with the demands of our community. Going forward, this will be a priority in the increasingly digital information environment.

The budget that we will present to the community on April 9 falls below the 2 percent cap. We have managed this despite the fact that there are many components of the budget, such as health care and pension costs, over which the board has no control. The board scrutinized every expenditure in an effort to avoid overburdening the taxpayer and stay below the 2 percent tax cap. We arrived at a budget that both achieves this goal and maintains the Library at a level that the public expects and deserves.

Last year was a dynamic one for the Port Washington Public Library. In 2012, we celebrated our 120th anniversary with a yearlong series of special events, exhibits, performances and lectures that were developed by the Library’s programming staff, the Friends of the Library and our volunteer Advisory Councils. The Anniversary Year theme, Celebrating Library Power!, was on full display throughout the year. Our signature event, Library Exploratorium, showcased and demonstrated technology that’s available now, and also explored what’s to come for libraries in the near future.

We once again received the “5-Star Library” designation from Library Journal. The survey showcases U.S. public libraries whose levels of service delivery distinguish them among their peers. This year, out of 7,570 public libraries surveyed, only 262 received 3, 4 or 5 star designations. Port Washington is one of 86 libraries nationally to receive the highest rating of 5 stars and one of 111 libraries that has received a star designation in all five Library Journal survey issues. Our library is in the top 1 percent of libraries nationwide based on usage, program attendance and circulation. We serve all segments of the population, and find that young patrons and their families are among our most active users: attending storytimes and workshops, borrowing books and participating in summer reading clubs and the Great Library Card Adventure. Thanks, Port Washington for making us a 5-star institution.

Hurricane Sandy brought significant disruptions to life on the peninsula in late October and the first couple of weeks in November, but Port residents rallied with their usual community spirit. Residents flocked to the library in unprecedented numbers for heat, electricity, charging stations, wifi, movies, books, DVDs and hot coffee. During the first weekend after the storm, more than 1,400 users attached their devices to our wi-fi system. As the week wore on, the library became the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Managements’ Community Recovery Center, with volunteers providing information, bottled water and meals to those in need.

We completed our work on a new strategic plan to bring creative learning spaces to the library, hosting open houses and focus groups in an effort to respond to your needs.

Please review the budget, available in next month’s issue of the library’s newsletter. The Budget Vote and Trustee Election takes place on Tuesday, April 9, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Applications for absentee ballots are available at the library’s administration office Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., at the Information Desk in the Reading Room, or at www.pwpl.org.

Robert Lee Aitken

President, Board of Trustees