On Tuesday, Dec. 10, residents of the Carle Place School District will take to the polls to vote for or against a Town of North Hempstead referendum to create a Carle Place Library District. Passage of the referendum would mean that residents of Carle Place would be able to contract with and be served by a neighboring library, specifically Westbury, without restricted or limited access to programs or services.
In May 2001 the Senate and the Assembly passed legislation for the creation of the "Carle Place Library District " and Governor George Pataki approved it later that year. Passage of the legislation gave the Carle Place Library Committee the right to have a vote to create a "special library district."
Before the library district could be implemented, however, residents must approve the following three propositions on Dec. 10: creation of the Carle Place Library Funding District which will follow the boundaries of the Carle Place School District; approval of an $845,000 budget to purchase library services from a neighboring library; and the election of a five-member, volunteer board of trustees.
The proposed $845,000 budget would result in a $2.03 tax rate increase per $100 of accessed value. With the average Carle Place home assessed at $4,000, the proposed budget would cost approximately $81.30 more in taxes a year.
If approved, some 5,000 Carle Place residents would have complete access to library services at the Westbury Memorial Public Library and would receive a Nassau Library System card, which can be used at most libraries throughout the county. The proposition, however, excludes the approximately 108 homes that are part of the Carle Place School District but are already paying a library tax to the Village of Mineola. State law prohibits charging someone a library tax twice, which is why the school district could not create the library district.
Until two years ago, residents in districts without a public library could purchase a card at a neighboring library and for years most Carle Place residents choose to use the Westbury or Mineola branches. But in 2000, purchase of these cards was prohibited.
"There was always a law on the books that said you can't sell library memberships," said Thomas Sobczak, chairman of the library committee. "After 2000, the state decided to enforce that law. Therefore, [libraries] could no longer sell these library memberships."
As a result, Carle Place residents were given a choice of accessing library services in East Meadow and Levittown - both which are central libraries that receive state funding and are open to the public - through a State Mandated Access Card. While Carle Place residents with these state-issued cards are allowed to take out books, they cannot borrow videos, participate in the interloan system and are frequently shut out of free programming.
In December, the state-issued cards will expire and residents will no longer have library privileges at East Meadow or Levittown. The New York State Board of Regents Requirements has therefore required that school districts without a public library create a "special library district" and the Carle Place Library Committee was established to look into the community's options. In the end, contracting of library services was found to be more sensible than building a library because the district is too small to support such a costly project.
"If we do not establish our own district, we could wind up - this little group of us here - with no library services at all," said Helen Mulligan, a member of the Carle Place Library Committee. "Limited library services are better than nothing, but of course we would prefer to have full access to a library. It's almost a fundamental right."
Peggy Wilde, president of the Carle Place Civic Association and co-chair of the Carle Place Library Committee, said joining with a neighboring library, such as Westbury, will benefit the community as a whole. "It is important for parents to have a place to bring their children for reading programs, to take books and videos out," she said. "For high school students, it is necessary definitely for research purposes. And for older people, it is for reading enjoyment and I know a lot of the seniors want the programs and the trips that are offered."
Sobczak agreed, saying, "The ability to participate in programs, take out books, videos and audios, is very important to a community. A library is a cultural center, a community center. Right now, we don't have that in Carle Place. That is why we are looking to contract with Westbury."
Cathleen Towey, director of the Westbury Library, said providing Carle Place residents with use of Westbury's facilities will benefit both communities. "We will have to see what the needs are [if the referendum is approved,] but we will most likely have more people and funds to do additional and better things," she said. "We can improve our book collections and expand our programming and probably hire additional people."
Towey added, "We have a long history of serving Carle Place residents. They were a part of our library community all along. [They] would have full equal rights to all the services that a Westbury resident has."
The Town of North Hempstead will hold a referendum of the Carle Place Library Funding District on Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., in the library of the Cherry Lane School, 475 Roslyn Avenue. To determine whether or not you are a qualified voter within the district or for more information, call Michelle Schimel, town clerk, at 869-7646.