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Local libraries feel the crunch

The New York Library Association recently asked the state to restore $5 million in aid, primarily citing an increase in library usage during hard economic times.

"When the public's buying power shrinks and household expenses grow, people tend to rely more on their public libraries for free reading materials and services, like literacy programs and computer training," said Michael Borges, NYLA's Executive Director in a statement.

"That's why restoring the critical state Library Aid is so important this year."

Local libraries can attest to the increased usage. Director of Elbridge Free Library Karen White, said there has absolutely been an increase in patrons at her facility.

"It's been consistently improving," said White, who noted an increase in computer use and DVD circulation.

Kathy Morris, director of Fairmount Community Library, has noticed more people using the library, but notes that this is common for times of economic hardship.

"When the economy is at it's worst, that's when everyone is using the library," Morris said. "And when the economy is at it's worst, that's when everybody cuts the library."

Morris said when times are hard, circulation of DVDs and books increase, as well as the use of library computers and community room. More people are asking how to write cover letters and resumes, and using the internet to search job openings.

"The job market is in the gutter - we see it on a daily basis," Morris said.

At Maxwell Memorial Library, director Katy Benson has seen an increase in overall circulation. Like Fairmount, circulation of all Maxwell materials have increased, especially adult materials other than books -- including DVDs, audiobooks, magazines and in-library computer use.

Benson, who joined the Maxwell staff in September, was reassured that as summer ended the library would 'calm down' -- but it never did, remaining quite busy into 2008, she said.

"Clerks have noticed an increase in calls about our hours, which suggests to them that people who haven't frequented the library in the past are now coming in," Benson said in an e-mail.

Director of Solvay Public Library Cara Burton has also seen an increase, though she said that is probably due to the new 7,500 square foot addition to the facility.

The addition, which opened in February, was heavily funded with state grants, said Burton.

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