I have attended a number of meetings promoting the expansion of the Bryant Library in Roslyn. At these meetings, the library director claimed that the library no longer meets the needs of the community and that a $15 million expansion at the taxpayers expense is needed. As a patron of the library for the past 20-plus years, I know that the library, as it is today, is under-utilized and there is no need for an expensive expansion.
* Library Under-utilized. To prove my point I measured activity, on my visits to the library, by counting the number of people in the 36 chairs in the general reading area. Based on 15 samples using this un-sophisticated but objective measure, I have determined that the library is utilized at approximately 10 percent of capacity. I have presented these numbers at three meetings with the library director and board members in attendance. Not once have either the director or board members denied that these numbers are correct. In a letter to the editor of The Roslyn News, the library director has not objected to the numbers but claimed that they are "potentially misleading." She has chosen her words very carefully. She has not said that the numbers are wrong because she knows that they are right. She knows because she is in the library every day.
However, I am not asking you, the members of the community, to believe my numbers. I'm asking you to go to the library and check it out for yourself. Count the number of people in the 36 seats in the general reading area. Pick an aisle at random and walk down it. You won't have to fight your way through the crowd; the aisle will be empty. You will draw the same conclusion I did: That the library is mostly empty most of the time.
The library director is asking the community to believe the statistics and surveys she has done, showing, for example, that circulation is increasing at a rate of 2.5 percent per year. That is not a terribly high growth rate. In fact, at a growth rate of 2.5 percent it will take 29 years for circulation to double. Let's say I am wrong and that the library is really operating at 20 percent of capacity instead of the 10 percent that I have measured. That means it will take 29 years for circulation to double to 40 percent and another 29 years for it to double again to 80 percent of capacity. Do we need a $15 million library expansion today? No.
The library director claims that a "gate count" shows that approximately 550 people use the library on a typical Monday. If that's the case, where are all the people? They're not in the seats; they're not in the aisles. Where are they? In fact, the library, as it is today, is more than adequate to handle the needs of the community.
* Why So Empty? The library director claimed in her letter that I am implying that the library has become irrelevant. This is absolutely false. I claim that the library is just fine, as it is today. I am a regular user of the library; a happy customer. What I am really asking is that the library director and board keep the Library in perspective. What do I mean by that? Twenty years ago, the library competed for our leisure time with seven channels of TV plus our hobbies and other interests. Today the library competes for our leisure time with:
* The Internet;
* Satellite and Cable TV (Hundreds of Channels);
* Video Games (a multi-billion dollar industry);
* Blockbuster Video (whose daily circulation is probably bigger than the library);
* Even Barnes & Noble and Borders, are now essentially libraries, with long hours and refreshments to boot.
Author Michael Lewis, in his book titled Next claims that half of the population spends two hours a day on the Internet and that the average American watches six hours of TV a day. No wonder the library is mostly empty today.
* The Cost? Presently, each property owner is paying a library tax from $275 to $700 per year and up. I am told the average house in the district is valued at $654,000 and pays approximately $530 just for Library Tax. I don't know about you, but for me, that's a lot of money. The amount is based on a tax rate determined each year by the library board. The library director claims that the proposed $15 million expansion will add $175 more per year, pushing the tax on the average house to $705 per year, just for library tax. She also claims that the project cannot exceed $15 million. This is not true. The value of the bond is limited to $15 million but not the cost of the project. What happens when the inevitable 10 to 20 percent cost overruns occur? The library board simply increases the tax rate to cover the cost over-runs. That's also how the board will cover the increased cost of operating expenses such as heating, electricity, air conditioning, maintenance costs, custodial services, insurance, increased staff, etc. etc. etc. So the taxpayers will be hit by the triple whammy of an ever-increasing library tax rate to cover cost over-runs and operating expenses plus an increase to pay off the bond--all to expand a library, which is currently under-utilized.
Within the past two years, taxpayers in this area have been hit with unprecedented property tax increases due to re-assessment. Many people can no longer afford to stay in their homes. You have very little control over assessment increases, but you do have control over this wasteful and unnecessary expenditure.
* Needs of Young Adults? The library plans show a large space devoted to attracting "young adults." The fact is that in these modern times, Internet access is far more important to students than library access, a trend to which parents are well aware. Conscientious students are not tripping over each other at the library; they are home doing their schoolwork on the Internet. They will remain there whether the library is expanded or not. The "build it and they will come" argument of the movie Field of Dreams doesn't hold water. First, in the movie, the builder used his own money and, second, the movie was fiction. Students will not come -- and I am not willing to make a $15 million bet that they will, are you?
* A Cultural Center? Perhaps the library director wants to make the library into a cultural center. We already have a cultural center in the community; in fact we have many:
Nassau County Museum of Art; Sid Jacobson Center; Roslyn Adult Ed with many cultural offerings; Roslyn Community Center andThe Helen Glannon Room of the Library.
We don't need another cultural center in Roslyn.
* A Rebuttal? When the director and board are confronted with these facts and figures at Library and Civic Association meetings, I would expect a vigorous rebuttal against these arguments and in defense of their expansion plan, but there is none. Why? Because when the project is exposed to the light of reality it is without merit.
* Time for Action. So, community residents, educate yourselves. Spend a half hour going to the library. Check out the people in the chairs and in the aisles. Then spend another half hour going to the library to vote no on this unnecessary and ill-conceived project. You will be paying yourself $200 to $300 per hour for your time in tax savings, just like those high-powered attorneys earn. And you will be paying yourself again and again for many years to come.
It is also important to get the word out. The vote on this Bond Issue is: Wednesday, March 24 at the library. Tell your neighbors; tell your civic association officers; tell your religious organizations; tell your senior citizens organizations; tell your civic association officers to alert their constituents. Everyone in the Roslyn School District is eligible to vote. Let people know that absentee ballots are available by calling the library.
The library director and board have made no case for this library expansion. I urge everyone in the community to defeat this unnecessary and wasteful project.