Libraries serving WG district seek public support with referendum

This special report was submitted by Rosemary Carr, vice president of the Maxwell Memorial Library Board of Trustees

Amazing the difference a year makes.

In 2008, Maxwell Memorial Library had the same number of public computers as it had in 2007, yet people's use of those computers increased 44 percent. The part-time children's librarian worked the same number of hours, yet program attendance at children's and teen programs grew by 69 percent. Library patrons, catching on to the free service of reserving books and movies at any library in the system, reserved 119 percent more materials than in 2007.

In line with a trend noted in communities nationwide, as the economy declined, library use climbed. Overall, Maxwell's circulation grew 6 percent in 2008, but in November and December 2008, it spiked 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively, compared to the year before.

All this growth, and on almost the same budget as the year before -- and the five years before that.

With town and village budgets strained to bursting and grants growing lean, libraries have few options for supporting increased demand for their services. What remains is asking for the blessing of the community the libraries serve.

Camillus residents will have a chance May 19 to vote on the tax levy that provides funding for the three libraries serving the West Genesee Central School District -- Maxwell Memorial, Fairmount Community and Onondaga Free libraries. The proposition would increase the current tax rate per $100,000 of assessed home value by $5.02, bringing the total library tax to $10.23 per $100,000 of value.

A 2003 Marist poll showed that New Yorker State residents overwhelmingly value having access to a public library. More than 6 in 10 are willing to support libraries with a tax increase up to $49.

A West Genesee district family living in a $100,000 home would pay a less than half the cost of a new book for a year of almost unlimited library services -- best-selling book titles, movies, magazines, audiobooks, computer access, learning opportunities, and entertainment.

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