Friday, 14 May 2010 00:00
One of the most important services any community enjoys is its public library. You wouldn’t think so judging by the actions Governor [David] Paterson and the New York State Assembly have taken on funding libraries and library systems in the State’s 2010-11 state budget plans. The governor has recommended that state aid to library systems and their member libraries be reduced by $4.2 million. The Senate has rejected this recommendation, but the Assembly is still debating it.
If the cut is approved, it would be the fifth in the last two years, and it would bring library aid to below 1998 levels. The cut would also result in further losses in federal funds for library service. Earlier state aid cuts have already cost New York libraries more than $2 million in federal aid.
Library trustees and library administrators are sympathetic to the state’s budget crisis, but want fairness from the governor and legislature. Total state aid to libraries amounts to less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the state budget. No other state-funded program serves so many people — 75 percent of New York households, and growing — with so little state funding.
Libraries and library systems are the backbone of our information structure. They have been role models for regional cooperation, resource-sharing and providing services in a cost-effective and efficient manner that saves taxpayers money.
Libraries are still the place to get a book or do research. But libraries offer much more than this. Computers are available for public use. DVDs and CDs may be borrowed without charge (saving rental costs). Educational, informational, and cultural programs are offered including instruction on how to use computers and other new technologies. Community groups can meet at their local libraries on a space-available basis. Library web pages offer access to online information, homework help, tutors, and professional librarians to answer questions even when the library is not open.
In times of recession, library use goes up. More people borrow books and media rather than purchase or rent them. More families participate in library programs that are offered without any admission charge. And many more use library resources, especially free computer access, for job hunting.
Now is the time for library users and supporters to stand up for their libraries and library systems. Call or write to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and your representative in the Assembly. Urge that no further cuts be made to libraries. You can also quickly and easily send a fax or email online via the NY Libraries Essential website, www.protectnylibraries.org/.
Director, Nassau Library System
Director, Westbury Memorial Public Library