New York Libraries Budget Cuts

New York Libraries Are Hurting…and YOU Can
Help!
NY Libraries

Governor Paterson has proposed a $2.4 million cut in Library Aid in his 2010-11 Executive Budget. It was the fifth cut in Library Aid in less than two years and would bring Library Aid down to $84.5 million which is below 1998 levels.
Earlier this month, the Assembly and Senate passed their individual budget resolutions. The Senate proposal called for the full restoration of the $2.4 million cut and the Assembly proposal included a 40% or $960,000 restoration. At the time of this report, legislative staff members are still working to resolve the differences between the Assembly and Senate proposals to address the more than $9 billion state budget deficit.

In our effort to advocate for appropriate funding this year, the library community created a website and issues campaign titled New York Libraries: ESSENTIAL. The New York Library Association also sponsored a lobby day in Albany, March 2. Library advocates sent countless emails, faxes and letters to their legislators and state representatives. On Library Lobby Day, nearly 1,000 advocates went to the state capital to meet and greet lawmakers. New York libraries also participated in SnapShotNY, which included a “Day in the Life” photo exhibit, and statistics along with stories and facts about their libraries and patrons with the hope of educating legislators about how important libraries are to their communities.

Included in Library Aid are shared operating funds for county library systems like Pioneer Library System and the Monroe County Library System, Suffolk Cooperative Library System on Long Island, the school library systems, 9 Regional Library Councils, CCDA grants for academic libraries, Medical Information Subsidy (MISP) funds, Conservation/Preservation funds, and HLSP funds for the hospital libraries. All of these entities will be affected by the 2010-11 budget, just to what extend is not known as of yet. As of press time, there is still no inside information as to how this will all play out or when the state budget will be passed.

In the final analysis, libraries will be asked to do what they have been doing all along– doing more with less.

When Jobs Disappear

It is well documented that Americans turn to their libraries to find information about future employment or educational opportunities. This includes the library community too. This library usage trend and other workplace factors are detailed in the 2010 State of America’s Libraries report, released by the American Library Association. The report shows that Americans have turned to their libraries in larger numbers in recent years. Since the recession took hold in December 2007, the local library, a traditional source of free access to books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs, has become a lifeline for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers in the Rochester region, offering technology training and workshops on topics that ranged from résumé-writing to job-interview skills.

The report shows the value of libraries in helping Americans combat the recession. It includes data from a January 2010 Harris Interactive poll that provides compelling evidence that a decade-long trend of increasing library use is continuing—and even accelerating during economic hard times.

This national survey indicates that

  • some 219 million Americans feel the public library improves the quality of life in their community.
  • More than 223 million Americans feel that because it provides free access to materials and resources, the public library plays an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.
  • With more businesses and government agencies requiring applicants to apply on line, job-seeking resources are among the most critical and most in demand among the technology resources available in U.S. public libraries.
  • Two-thirds of public libraries help patrons complete online job applications; provide access to job databases and other online resources (88 percent) and civil service exam materials (75 percent); and offer software or other resources (69 percent) to help patrons create résumés and other employment materials.

However, the report also shows that increased library use did not lead to an increase in funding for libraries. Research by the ALA and the Center for Library and Information Innovation at the University of Maryland suggests a “perfect storm” of growing community demand for library services and shrinking resources to meet that demand. While library use soars, a majority of states are reporting cuts in funding to public libraries and to the state library agencies that support them. New York State is no exception.

It is important for every member of our community to take a leading role in advocating for adequate library funding for statewide systems and their community libraries. If you are a union member, talk with your local political action folks and join a committee. If you work for or patronize an independent or community library, sit down with the administrators or the Friends group and strategize and create an action plan. Get to know your state legislators and tell them how important library funding is for you and your family. Personal relationships and testimonies go along way.

In conclusion, if we are going to meet the needs of the 21st century library user, we must encourage and deliver a sustained, consistent effective marketing campaign and advocacy effort to make sure New York libraries stay healthy. Right now, in 2010, we are losing the battle– but can still win the war. 

 
Written by Ove Overmyer
Assistant Reference Librarian, Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County
Law Library Clerk, NYS Appellate Division Law Library, 4th Department
President, CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420

 
 
   
 
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