Dec 11, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
When the state Legislature reconvened Nov. 18 for a special session to chop state spending, Gov. David Paterson pushed for a 22 percent cut to the public library budget, totaling $20 million in reduced funding state-wide.
Though budget revisions have been suspended until 2009, New York librarians worry that postponing cuts will only cause them to be deeper in the new year.
“There is a lot of talk. Every year we go through cuts but this definitely goes a lot deeper than before, and it’s going to hurt a lot of libraries throughout the state,” predicted Kathy Morris, director of Fairmount Community Library.
But how exactly would a 22 percent funding decrease affect public libraries? Books already paid for and lining the shelves are not going anywhere – so where would library patrons feel the pinch?
It’s true that cutting funding to libraries may not affect the number of books already on hand – but it could change how often they are available to you.
Among the often-overlooked expenses of library systems are the inter-library loan service and the delivery costs associated with it, as well as the catalogues and databases available to patrons.
Cara Burton, director of Solvay Public Library explained that smaller, suburban libraries “piggyback” resources available at larger branches.
Electronic resources require maintenance costs, so when funding is tightened they may not be as readily shared among smaller facilities. Not to mention the fuel costs required to transport books between branches.
Maxwell Memorial Library Director Katy Benson said one way libraries receive state funding annually is through Local Library Services Aid checks – last year Maxwell received about $5,500 through that type of funding.
That dollar amount translates to more than 300 books, but could go toward children’s programs, special equipment and materials like audio books as well, Benson said.
Funding a complicated issue
Kathy Morris, director of Fairmount Community Library, pointed out that for smaller libraries like Fairmount, Maxwell Memorial and Elbridge Free Library, some funding comes directly from the state but other monies trickle down through the county.
Not only would such drastic cuts affect the smaller facilities directly, but local libraries receive funding from a number of different venues, including state, county and municipality budgets, donations and grants. Many local facilities count Senator DeFrancisco’s office as a resource for grants that may be harder to come by in coming years if the library budget is cut.
And, as the overall state budget is slashed, the affects will inevitably trickle down to local governments, pointed out Solvay Public Library Director Cara Burton.
The village of Solvay contributes to more than 90 percent of the SPL budget, so if the village receives less money, so will the library, said Burton.
One way many libraries could counteract the seemingly inevitable cuts is through fundraising and private donations, but the same economy calling for cuts to the state budget is also requiring less spending at home, making community donations harder to come by as well.
“It’s ironic that even as New York residents are being urged to tighten their belts by using free public resources, we are being threatened with having much less in the way of public resources,” pointed out Maxwell Memorial Library Director Katy Benson.
Make your voice heard
Burton said that she has noticed several SPL patrons are worried and curious about the proposed cuts, and what they would affect.
While only time will tell how much the state will slash, the suspension of the cuts offers library patrons the chance to voice their opposition to the proposed cuts by contacting their state legislators.
Need help figuring out who your representatives are, or how to reach them?
Ask your librarian.