Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology;
Public Hearing on Funding Public Libraries in New York State
Purpose: To examine the impact of the 2012-13 State Budget on public libraries across New York State
Thursday, November 29, 2012, 10:00 a.m., Hamilton Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany, New York.
In attendance: Members of Assembly Bob Reilly (109th), Phillip A. Palmesano (136th), Samuel D. Roberts (119th), Thomas J. Abinanti (92nd), Ellen Jaffee (95th).
State Education Department
- Jeffrey W. Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education
- Bernard A. Margolis, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries
New York Library Association
New York Alliance of Library Systems
- Tim Burke, Executive Director, Upper Hudson Library System
NY3Rs Association, Inc.
- Jean Sheviak, Executive Director of the Capital District Library Council
Library Trustees Association of New York State
- John Eberhardt, Member of the Board of Directors, LTA
Public Library Systems
- Dave Donelson, President, Westchester Library System Board of Trustees, and Trustee, Harrison Public Library
- Mary Jean Jakubowski, Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System; with Thomas C. Bindeman, Executive Director of the Nioga Library System, and Sheryl Knab, Executive Director of the Western New York Library Resources Council (3Rs)
- Sara Dallas, Director, Southern Adirondack Library System; with Alex Gutelius, Director, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, David Golden, Trustee, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, and Kathleen U. Naftaly, Acting Director, Crandall Public Library
- Maureen O’Connor, on behalf of Tom Galante, President & CEO of Queens Library
- Robert Hubsher, Ramapo Catskill Library System Executive Director
- Ira Simon, Ramapo Catskill Library System Board President
- Ristiina Wigg, Executive Director, Southern Tier Library System
- Wanda R. Bruchis, Executive Director, Mid York Library System
Central and Co-Central Libraries
- Tom Lawrence, Convener, Central Libraries Association of New York State
- Claudia Depkin, Director, Haverstraw King's Daughters Public Library
- Marilyn McIntosh, Director, Monroe Free Library
- Kristine Russell, Library Manager, Frankfort Free Library
School Library Systems
- J’aimé Pfeiffer, School Library System Director for Capital Region BOCES, Albany
- Jean Ehnebuske, Resident, Town of Kent, Putnam County and former library trustee
- H. William Batt, Ph.D., Central Research Group, Inc. Albany
Statement by Jeffrey W. Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education, New York State Education Department
Good Morning Chairman Reilly and thank you for having us today. My name is Jeffrey Cannell and I am the Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education. I am pleased to be here today to testify on behalf of the Board of Regents, Commissioner John B. King, Jr., and the State Education Department. I am joined today by Assistant Commissioner Bernie Margolis, our State Librarian.
I want to first thank you for the increases in state aid provided to our libraries and library systems in the last state budget. We understand that these have been challenging fiscal times, and your investments in libraries and library systems are an acknowledgement of their importance not only as educational, local and cultural institutions, but as contributors to our economic recovery.
New Yorkers love libraries. New Yorkers used a public library over 115 million times last year and took home over 163 million items, ranging from traditional books to the latest in e-books.
The Regents are in the midst of an ambitious Reform Agenda, and libraries have played a part by providing critical teaching and learning resources and opportunities to support the Regents goal of ensuring that all students graduate high school ready for college and careers.
Libraries provide critical early literacy services, and offer job training resources for adults, including English basic literacy skills. These services, among many others, make libraries a key component for the sustained success of New York’s public education system.
In my testimony, I will discuss some programs and services libraries and library systems are providing to their local communities, and how libraries are using collaboration and technology to better leverage resources.
STATE-SUPPORTED LIBRARY SYSTEMS – THE BACKBONE
Before I delve into that, I want to take just a moment to put the state’s libraries and library systems in context, because it does illustrate in part the grand collaboration inherent in the library system.
Many New Yorkers are not aware of the state-supported library and information infrastructure that stands behind and supports their local library. This state-supported infrastructure includes the New York State Library, the three types of library systems (public, school and research/reference) and over 7,000 individual libraries.
Because of the State Library and state-supported “library systems,” New Yorkers may freely access library materials and services that many communities would not otherwise be able to afford. The State Library and the library systems use public and private funds to help libraries collaborate and better leverage and extend local resources. This important state-supported partnership results in library services being delivered more equitably across New York State. This collaboration also brings library services to New Yorkers with special needs, such as persons with physical and learning disabilities, the educationally disadvantaged, and others with difficulty in accessing traditional library services.
As a result, collaborative services delivered through the three types of library systems benefit all New Yorkers. Students, parents, entrepreneurs, authors, researchers, teachers, health practitioners, job seekers and others capitalize on the rich resources our libraries bring to New York’s information infrastructure.
NEW YORK’S LIBRARIES – MEETING COMMUNITY NEEDS
The breadth and depth of programs and services offered by libraries and library systems are vast. In addition to the traditional programs and services that one thinks of when they think of a library, there are many innovative programs throughout the state that we are proud of and serve as examples of library efforts to engage with the community. Here are a few:
- At the Fayetteville Free Library you can make an appointment to visit with a librarian for job search help. A child can create a three-dimensional model of their latest invention and a band student can participate in live musical performances. By the way Fayetteville has just been selected as one of the top 30 public libraries in all of the United States.
- The Port Washington Public Library runs a Job Search Bootcamp with the support of Assemblymember Michelle Schimel. This intensive 8 week program is designed to share every technique needed for an effective job search. The end result is a good job!
- In New York City, a fantastic partnership between the Queens, New York, and Brooklyn libraries brings new and expanded resources to the city’s public schools. With an emphasis on on-line learning this partnership brings to schools a new connection to local library branches and recognizes that educational opportunity extends beyond the school day and the school building.
- The New York Heritage Collection is a creation of the nine Reference and Research Resources Systems which cover the entire state and have come together to make available local newspaper resources from across the state as well as photographic and local history and genealogy resources. These are all available on-line with easy searching to connect people with their past and to celebrate all things New York. And they are available to the public at no charge.
- The Bausch & Lomb Research and Development Library was described, in a recent nomination for the Special Library of the Year Award, as playing “a critical role in helping our scientists develop new products by giving them access to key scientific information. We are lucky to have access to literally thousands of publications on paper and electronically. More importantly, our library (here in New York) is a global resource for Bausch & Lomb, helping our teams around the world ultimately bring innovative eye health solutions to market to help people see better – to live better.”
As many of you know, the New York State Library, in partnership with the New York State Museum and New York State Archives, just completed a successful statewide tour of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the only Emancipation Proclamation document in President Lincoln’s own hand. Over 30,000 New Yorkers viewed the exhibition which also included a copy of the speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Proclamation in New York City, in September 1962. This historic document is in our hands due to the wisdom of the State Legislature, which appropriated $1,000 in 1865 to purchase the Emancipation Proclamation for placement with the State Library. The exhibition text authored by Commissioner King; historian Harold Holzer, and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at New York Public Library Director Kahlil Muhammed provided an opportunity for public education about this important part of the American story and the role we have is sharing these important resources.
These are just a few examples of the exciting things happening in New York‘s 756 public libraries and in the over 6,000 school, academic, law, health, corporate and special libraries which provide an enviable array of library and information services for New Yorkers. I could go on and on, because in my job as Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education I have the pleasure of learning and seeing firsthand the many exciting programs and services New York libraries are offering to meet the needs of their communities.
LIBRARIES ARE LEARNING SPACES AND LEARNING PLACES
As highly visible and accessible community anchor institutions, libraries provide both formal and informal learning spaces -- in the library and online. This is true for whichever community a library serves -- a town, a city or village; an elementary, middle or high school; a community college or major university; or a hospital or corporation.
Technology has become a key aspect of library services. Libraries strive to ensure digital inclusion for all our citizens -- so every New Yorker will be digitally literate or digitally fluent and able to freely access online information and online educational opportunities, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances.
- 72.5% of New York’s public libraries are the only free source of Internet/broadband access in their communities. Over 17,000 public access internet computers are today available at over 1,000 public libraries.
- 94.6 % of New York’s public libraries offer computer related training to help people, of all ages, in many languages, acquire 21st century technology skills.
- Libraries are leaders in expanding Wi-Fi and broadband access for the public and are paving the way with partnerships to expand capacity for all potential users.
- New Yorkers with disabilities rely on the library for special equipment and materials to make the fullest use of the Internet services they need.
- Libraries continue to push the envelope on increasing the connect speeds and capacity for Internet/broadband access. Now over 25% of New York’s libraries have Internet connect speeds greater than 10Mbps. Federal support from E-rate and grant funds is being used to improve access speeds across the state.
In order to be competitive and to support local needs, libraries will need even greater capacity and even greater speeds to offer the robust Wi-Fi, videoconferencing and other broadband services now both expected and required by the public.
I would like to re-introduce you to Bernie, and ask him to discuss critical issues facing libraries today.
This statement in .PDF format [30k]
Statement by Bernard A. Margolis, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries, New York State Education Department
Thank you Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Cannell for the thorough introduction to the state of library services in the Empire State. Libraries are alive, being heavily used in person and online in every part of our great state. In over 1,000 locations libraries are the hubs of community commerce, learning and enterprise.
Today, in my limited time, I want to focus on four critical and timely areas related to New York’s libraries and their resources:
- Review the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and her impact on libraries.
- The impact of the federal fiscal cliff and sequestration on critical library services
- The continuing need for library infrastructure investments, and
- The role of our library systems as tools for efficiency in government.
The Impact of Hurricane Sandy
Included among the wide devastation inflicted by Superstorm Sandy are major damages suffered by public libraries, academic libraries, and school libraries throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. Damage to buildings, to technology infrastructure, and to collections of books and other materials has been vast. Assessments continue of the wide ranging damage. Our preliminary information suggests building repair costs beyond those required to “just get the doors open” will be very significant, as will costs to rehabilitate damaged collections.
At the same time, it is vitally important to acknowledge and, in fact, celebrate, the essential role which libraries served in the ravaged areas. Libraries which were able to open, extended their hours, provided places for people to recharge cell-phones, used the internet to connect to families, provided warmth, light, food and in some cases shelter. Libraries helped people deal with water-soaked possessions which for many represented a lifetime of memories and family history. Libraries provided information, access to news, programs to entertain and educate children, emergency information and resources, and offices for FEMA and relief organizations. The public good for which libraries are known was a public good of immense and different proportions. We are fortunate that a corps of dedicated library workers was in place to respond, as they always do, with lifesaving help.
The Fiscal Cliff and Sequestration
As with programs throughout the state, the Department is deeply concerned with the consequences of the federal “fiscal cliff” and sequestration. We receive important federal support through the Library Services and Technology Act and the prospect of sequestration of those federal funds has caused great panic through the library sector.
For example, the popular NOVELNY program which brings a wide range of critical on-line information resources directly to over 5,000 libraries and is accessible to all New Yorkers is supported almost entirely with federal funds. Almost 56 million searches on these databases last year suggests how popular and important these resources are for libraries. Even a relatively small loss of federal funds would force major reductions of this important service. Federal resources support literacy, conservation, technology, as well as critical State Library specialists. It is not realistic to think that reductions in federal support can be absorbed without scaling-back services.
I want to thank you for your support of the Public Library Construction program. The $14 million annual appropriation over the past 7 years, has leveraged millions more to improve library facilities throughout the state so that they are safe, accessible and efficient.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy it is appropriate to begin thinking and rethinking how we build public facilities to be resilient to the forces of nature that our state has encountered in recent years. When the State Library last surveyed the library community about building and facility needs, we learned that the scope of our overall needs was in the billions of dollars. These ranged from infrastructure improvements to make facilities accessibility compliant, to technology needs, to improved energy efficiencies.
Thanks to your investments, libraries have started and continue to make critical improvements. At a minimum, sustaining these investments will encourage the kind of renewal in library infrastructure that acknowledges the heavy use being made of these facilities and will help libraries plan leverage local resources.
Tools for Efficiency in Government
The design of the system for the delivery of library services in New York is one widely replicated. While the primary point of service delivery is the local library: your local public library, your school library, or your community college or academic library, these local libraries connect through three (3) types of library systems. These systems represent a very efficient and reliable means of sharing resources, providing centralized and cooperative services, and providing specialized services which would otherwise be beyond the reach of any individual library. These often behind the scene services of the library systems are the backbone which permit individual libraries to provide state of the art technology, book and material delivery, publicity and promotion and a wide range of other services, including the highly acclaimed Summer Reading in New York Libraries program in which many members of the Assembly participate.
While our focus has generally been at the local library level – where the rubber meets the road – we cannot ignore the importance of the public library systems, the school library systems and the Regional Resource and Reference systems. We count on the systems to do more and more in providing service, overseeing quality control and compliance and helping guarantee quality services. We hope we can continue discussing ways to encourage the positive discussions underway between various library systems looking at collaborating, partnering and approaching shared services in new ways. The benefits to the state for incentivizing and rewarding improved efficiencies are great. The systems are essential to library service delivery for all New Yorkers and they need resources to be effective and efficient.
In closing, funding needs nearly always run ahead of available resources. Your past commitments, especially during difficult financial times, have acknowledged the importance of the local library. I recently saw the statement: Cutting library funding in a recession is like closing the hospital during the plague! Our libraries play a role in our economic development and are critical quality of life institutions for New Yorkers. Our libraries serve small businesses, help the unemployed and underemployed find or train for new jobs, and contribute greatly to our goal of ensuring that New Yorkers succeed in college and careers. As you weigh the difficult challenge of 2013, I know you will keep public libraries and the valuable services they provide to New Yorkers and our communities in the forefront of your mind.
Thank you and we are happy to answer questions.
This statement in .PDF format [26k]
Statement by Carol Anne Germain, NYLA President
Good morning and thank you for providing me the opportunity to present today regarding state funding for libraries and library systems.
I would like to begin by thanking Governor Cuomo for maintaining the previous year’s funding levels in the 2012 Executive Budget. I would also like to thank all those members of the Legislature who supported our legislative priorities last year.
Libraries are an essential part of every community; they provide access to free, unbiased information, they provide a bridge to cross the ‘digital divide’, and they serve as a focal point in the community, hosting countless community groups and events. The value of New York public libraries has become ever more poignant in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As highlighted in a recent New York Times article, libraries across the disaster area are providing needed resources to storm victims. An example includes a mobile library bus, situated outside a former location of a Rockaway branch library, offering warmth, power outlets, emergency information, and books.
Libraries are educational institutions, delivering learning opportunities at every stage of life.
Parents introduce their children to books and foster a love of reading beginning with story time programs that serve to develop early literacy skills.
Throughout elementary and high school, school and public librarians provide guidance and resources that augment general classroom learning and foster critical thinking and information analysis.
Following formal education, libraries continue to serve the needs of the public, addressing human curiosity and hunger for information.
Additionally libraries provide access to what has become a necessity in today’s world, access to a computer and the Internet. Can you imagine applying for a job and not having access to send or upload an online application? Or not being able to look up information on a diagnosis that the doctor just gave to your mother? That is the reality for one third of minority households in New York State, and 67% of homes with annual income below $20,000. Public libraries bridge this digital divide, by providing access to this technology for free. Walk into any public library, at any time, on any day, and you will see computer labs with nearly ever terminal in use.
In recent years libraries have also expanded their role, serving as career training and job placement centers. The Career Development Center at the Brentwood Public Library recently circulated success stories of various patrons who gained basic computer skills, returned to school, found employment, or even started a small business, all thanks to the services provided at the library.
New York’s public libraries need your support.
Despite last year’s modest funding increases, libraries aide remains below 1997 levels. As a frame of reference, in 1997 President Bill Clinton was just beginning his second term in office, no one was yet worrying about the Y2K issue and Titanic was a hit in the theatres.
Although positive steps have been take in the last couple of years, library funding is still down nearly 20% from its peak in 2007 – at a time when library use is up 12% and circulation is up over 21%.
In a 2012 survey of 284 public libraries (that’s about 37% of the libraries in New York State), in just one day:
- There were over 170,000 patron visits, (of them, nearly 40K of them used a public computer)
- Over 24,000 reference questions were answered,
- Over 13,000 children took part in a program, and
- Over 340,000 items circulated
These numbers illustrate that contrary to those who claim that the internet is making libraries irrelevant; library usage and circulation continue to rise.
The library community has always been modest in our funding requests; never asking for more than the state can realistically provide. And our needs are small, so small that the amount of Library Aid in the budget is less than one tenth of one percent of the state budget as a whole.
In order to continue to provide all the services that the public has come to rely on, we request that library aid be restored to its pre-recession level of $102 million.
Keep in mind that libraries are nearly entirely supported by the communities they serve. On average less than nine percent of a public library’s budget comes from state aid, and yet that funding is critical to their operation, as they have already reduced expenses and operations as much as possible.
Additionally, according to the State Library there is approximately $2.5 billion in library construction and renovation needs throughout the state and yet the state provides only $14 million annually for public library construction funds. A modest increase to $20 million would be welcome.
Your constituents overwhelmingly support their libraries; over the past three years, on average 97% of library budgets have been approved by the voters. I hope that you will support libraries as well by voting in favor of full funding restoration.
Beyond all the numbers and statistics, and the end of the day this is a matter of what type of society we all want to live in. Libraries make for better communities, a better informed public, bridge the digital divide and support the functioning of democracy. I for one want to live in a world where libraries are viewed to be just as essential as police and fire departments in the community. Every one of you has come here to Albany to serve the interests of your community and the state. Supporting library funding is an investment in a better future for New York State.
There is no better place for the citizens of New York State to gather knowledge than at their local library.
On a personal note, I would most likely not be here today if it were not for public libraries. As a young mother, I moved to a small rural hamlet in eastern Rensselaer County. I wanted to be involved in the community and started working with others on the development of a park. Since I did not own a computer (or a typewriter) I used the local library to access needed information (including books via interlibrary loan facilitated through the public library system) and a word processor to type letters for funding. I spent a lot of time in the library. The library director knew this and asked if I would become a trustee. My response was that, as a waitress, I could not serve in this position. She reassured me that the responsibilities would be limited and consisted of a meeting each month and voting. It turned out that the library’s reference collection lacked important resources. The library director handed me the Foundation Directory (again a loan through the library system). I quickly got to work and selected foundations interested in education and another topic, found a matching reference book, and then requested the source. I sent out hundreds of letters and in total received over $20.000.
This experience prompted me to go to college. Within 5 years, I had an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. This spring, 22 years after that public library director asked me to serve as a trustee, I received a Ph.D. in Informatics.
Yes, public libraries and systems do make a difference. With your support they can make an even stronger impact for the citizens of New York State.
Thank you for your time and attention, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of service in gathering information on any library related issue.
Carol Anne Germain
President, New York Library Association
cgermain @ albany.edu
This statement in .PDF format [161k]
2012-2013 budget = $82.927 million in state aid. This was the funding amount for 1997/98 ($82.8). This budget is the same amount given 15 years ago.
In the notice of this hearing, it was stated that “libraries continue to represent a community investment.” I want to thank the committee for the recognition of public libraries and library systems as an investment in communities. It is vitally important that this view continue, for when we educate individuals, communities become stronger. The value of this public good extends beyond the walls of the library and ripples on beyond those who immediately benefit from its resources to those who are impacted by an individual’s motivation to acquire further knowledge and understanding.
I have long believed in the power of the public library to serve and educate all. A society is only as strong and wise as those individuals which build it. The beauty and strength of a public library is its accessibility. The goods and services provided by these institutions can change lives and encourage communities to stay vital and strong.
Libraries are not merely warehouses of books (though some may have this antiquated view). They are living institutions where community members and visitors come to learn, to grow, and to connect. In our role, we not only assist people in finding materials, guide them in the use of new technologies, help children find answers to homework questions, offer early literacy activities for the very young, and provide parent education programs. We also serve as community facilitators, bringing together groups of individuals with different ideas and resources in a meaningful way that helps our patrons to find new connections.
Programs and services libraries and library systems are providing in their local communities
As I am here representing youth services, I will speak in general terms regarding a sample of types of programs that public libraries across the State are providing to their communities.
A sample list of programs provided are: library babies, afterschool workshops, preschool story programs, story and music programs, story and art programs, therapy dogs , parenting workshops, technology classes for children and teens, and more.
The impact and value of such programs can be seen in statistics on early literacy development as well as their connection to current initiatives in education. Many of the programs that we provide to young people are geared at supporting their growth and development and supplementing the education that they receive at school and through the home. We continue to learn just how important it is to support early literacy education and experiences from the very beginning. Children who cannot yet read are still developing the foundational skills necessary to be able to read when they are ready. We know that the interaction between a child and a trusted adult, whether it be a parent, a grandparent, a teacher or a caregiver is essential to helping children make gains in language development. The ability to make sense of and use language is the start to a lifetime of learning. For many children, the library is a place where this learning is reinforced. As children hear more language and participate in its creation, they grow stronger in their ability to understand concepts. Adults who participate in family literacy activities with their children learn how to continue to encourage their children in this reinforced learning.
In addition to literacy programs for the very young, libraries also provide opportunities for school age children to explore literature, science, art, dance, and more. Through these afterschool programs, children learn to be inquisitive, learn new skills and have a chance to further engage in activities that support such initiatives as STEM and the Common Core. As much as possible, public libraries strive to work with local schools and homeschool families and groups to offer opportunities for such growth and reinforcement.
A sample list of additional services public libraries provide to children, teens and families include: user education (technology, research), readers’ advisory, reference, class/school visits, community organization (cub scouts, girl scouts, etc.) tours, programs, and instruction.
Libraries provide not only programs and access to materials, but also knowledgeable staff to assist patrons in finding learning new skills and finding information. Part of the service that libraries offer is the assistance needed to connect the user with the information or experience that the user is seeking. While technology has made it possible to access the world at our fingertips, that amount of access also comes with the sometimes daunting task of actually finding what one is looking for amidst it all. The user education services that public libraries provide through one on one consultations, through workshops, and through group visits helps library users to navigate through physical and online environments to reach the information they seek.
Since our library is chartered to serve a certain geographic area and we have limited staff, we are not able to accommodate requests from community groups that are based outside of our service area. Recently, a cub scout troop parent called asking if he could schedule a library tour and workshop on how to use the library and find information so that the troop could earn their library badge. As much as I would have liked to say yes to him, I could not because the troop was based out of a neighboring service area. I explained to him why we were not able to do the program and suggested that he contact his local library as I was sure the librarian there would be happy to help. Upon this suggestion he said that he had called them, but that they were not open on the day they could bring the troop. This is where funding becomes critical so that libraries can operate during hours to meet their community’s needs.
How libraries and library systems are using collaboration and technology to better leverage their resources
Library systems continue to provide consistent delivery services to member libraries, helping to fill patron requests when individual library budgets do not allow them to do so. Because our systems do this, we are able to get children enough copies of a book that that they are required to read when the school cannot. Because our systems do this, libraries with limited funding for materials and/or space are able to offer their community members the chance to also have access to materials that would otherwise be denied to them.
Library systems, if funding allows for it, have youth services consultants who know that continuing education and collaboration is an important part of keeping up with user expectations and needs. These consultants work to bring youth services staff together for training and collaborative meetings that allow youth services staff to continue to provide quality service to their communities. They also work to promote and support the libraries in their systems through collaborative programs and grant-seeking activities. At this point, many library systems do not have a full time youth consultant to provide this type of support.
Some libraries in the State have used technology in the form of video webcasts to provide their community members with author visits. For libraries who cannot afford to pay the costs of transportation and lodging for an author visit, this has been one way that libraries have been able to offer such opportunities to their communities using technology to better leverage the resources that they do have. In addition, many libraries are taking advantage of free or inexpensive social media outlets as a way to keep their public informed on library happenings and developments. Online learning environments are another way that libraries can provide opportunities and stretch their resources for their communities. However, this does require the technology and staff training to be able to do so.
Testimony to ascertain the future funding needs of our public libraries and library systems
Technology needs: With new devices and platforms come more ways of accessing information. While libraries still work with books, they must also keep up with an ever-increasing demand for information on how to use new technologies. This is part of the job that has been added to what library staff is expected to know and offer assistance with. While library staff members continue to order and weed and plan programs and answer reference and readers’ advisory questions, community members also look to library professionals to tell them how to use their e-book or what apps are good for their children. I do not believe that the prevalence of hand-held personal technology is a trend that will soon be gone. Current technology means that people can access information anytime, anywhere, and yet, with an overwhelming amount of information at their fingertips, patrons still look for guidance in sifting through this data. If anything, libraries need the tools and training to be able to help their community members navigate through it all. Technology is ever-changing and yet, patrons ask that we keep up with it so that we can help them. To do so, libraries need the continued financial resources to help stay one step ahead of the technology curve so that they can meet patron needs and expectations.
Staff training: Intertwined with the technology needs is the ongoing need for staff training. Staff need the time and the resources to keep up with new technologies. Funding is necessary to making this happen. For small libraries that are lucky if they have one librarian who is scheduled to work 25 hours a week (but puts in many more voluntary hours on top of that to keep the library going), it is often almost impossible for the library staff to attend training that would allow them to keep up with the demand for knowledge of devices and web-based learning tools. Beyond staff training in technology, it is also important that staff who work with children keep up with current trends in early childhood development and educational philosophies and mandates. In order for public librarians to support the students, teachers, and parents in their communities, they must have time to further develop their skills and understanding of working with children of all ages. Youth services librarians must have knowledge and understanding of infant, toddler, preschool, elementary school, tween, teen, young adult, adult and older adult populations. As youth service librarians we often move between serving these individual groups at one moment to serving several groups at once in family program settings. We must give validity to the work and knowledge that it takes to effectively meet the educational and experiential needs of all of these groups by continuing to provide funding that will allow staff to remain up-to-date on how to best design programs and services geared towards these populations.
Staffing to meet community needs: Most of the time libraries are not able to meet the demands of the communities they serve for better access to the libraries, more programs to support the growth and development of their children, or computer literacy needs because they simply do not have the funding necessary to provide the staff necessary to meet these needs. Many libraries rely on volunteers to help them supplement some of the work the professional staff does, but this is often not enough. Volunteers are not staff, and they cannot be expected to be held to the same level of dedication and continuing education that staff members can. To create programs and services and sustain these programs for as long as they are needed and useful, staff is required. Without staff, libraries are merely warehouses and not cultural centers of community education.
If we truly value libraries as a community investment, we must be willing to fund that investment. We must see it as a priority that is worth funding. When libraries are denied funding or given less funding than they were given over a decade ago, it sends a strong message to community members in towns and villages and across the State. It sends the message that they are not vital, they are not important, they are not worth investing in; that community education for all is not worth investing in. I ask that our beautiful State continue to tell the people who reside in it that it cares about their future and their children’s future. I ask that it send a strong message that says public libraries as centers of community education and exploration are important. I ask that it do so by continuing to fund public libraries and library systems so that they can be centers of community education that people can depend on.
1. SEE “History of Library Aid 1990-2011/12”
This statement in .PDF format [112k]
My name is Tim Burke and I am the Executive Director of the Upper Hudson Library System. As one of New York’s public library systems, UHLS supports and strengthens the services of the 29 public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and let me also take the opportunity to publicly thank Assemblyman Reilly for his years of service and his support for New York’s Libraries. Your efforts are very much appreciated.
Today I am speaking to you on behalf of the New York Alliance of Library Systems, the organization that brings together the state’s 73 locally-based library systems. There are three types of library systems serving over 19 million New Yorkers.
- Public library systems that support over 1,000 public libraries and branches libraries
- School library systems that support over 4,500 school library media centers in elementary, middle, and high schools statewide serving 2.8 million pupils, teachers and administrators
- Multi-type reference and research library resources councils that support over 900 academic, research, hospital, cultural, and corporate libraries.
These library systems work together to create a network that connects the more than 7,000 libraries in New York State.
Library systems were first created in the late 1940s to help libraries achieve economies of scale through resource sharing, collaborative projects, and shared services - all themes that we have been hearing a lot about in current conversations about government efficiency, but library systems have been doing these things for more than 50 years!
As technology and the information environment have changed, library systems have evolved to keep pace with our users needs. Today’s library systems provide their member libraries with:
- innovative IT solutions and services;
- state-wide delivery of research materials (both physical and electronic delivery);
- digitization of unique local resources making them accessible to all New Yorkers;
- sophisticated training and professional development opportunities;
- shared purchasing of e-books and other digital resources;
- collaborative collection development strategies to maximize resource availability
In short, Library systems provide a cost-effective statewide information infrastructure that provides libraries with measurable economies based on shared resources and shared costs.
How does this infrastructure make a positive impact on the people in your home district?
- 98% of New York’s public libraries report that they have helped patrons look for or apply for a job online – using the link to the digital world provided by library systems;
- 70% of New York’s libraries serve as their community’s only option for free Internet access – again a service supported by library systems;
- New York’s libraries circulate more than 160 million items annually – often using the Library Systems’ physical delivery service or Interlibrary Loan service that allows a user to locate and request an item online and have it delivered to any library;
- 95% of NY libraries offer classes and programs that teach their patrons how to connect to the digital world - use computers, access the Internet, apply for jobs online, use e-mail, etc. The librarians teaching these classes developed their skills through professional training programs offered their library system.
It is a fact that Library systems save taxpayers money and enable all libraries to do more – and we have been doing this for more than 50 years.
It is a fact that Library systems provide a structure for cost sharing and collaboration that should be a model for consideration by other governmental services interested in regionalism and economies of scale.
But the specific topic of today’s hearing is the impact of the state budget on library services:
Library systems are funded primarily through state aid to libraries, which has been cut 20% from 2008 levels. These cuts have taken us back to 1996 funding levels.
We can assure you that these cuts are steadily eroding the foundation of New York’s information infrastructure, making it difficult to maintain essential services, programs, and staff. And there is a real danger that this erosion will become permanent as library systems exhaust their modest fund balances, reduce their staff, and discontinue valuable programs.
The New York Alliance of Library Systems has just one legislative priority: the restoration of state aid to libraries to its 2008 amount: $102 million. While we acknowledge that this is a large percentage increase, we also remind you that the $20.4 million required for full restoration represents less than 2/100’s of 1% of the total state budget for 2012.
Restoring Library aid is your opportunity to make an investment in the future of New York State through your support of libraries and library systems. Funding libraries and library systems is an investment in New York’s economic recovery, an investment in New York’s future as a leader in the high tech information economy, an investment in the current and future generations of New York’s children, and an investment that will produce a substantial return and make a lasting positive difference for the people of New York State.
We appreciate this committee’s support and your diligent efforts on behalf of libraries. The New York Alliance of Library Systems encourages the committee as a group and as individual members to recommend and to fight for the restoration of state aid to libraries in the upcoming state budget.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today.
This statement in .PDF format [132k]
My name is Jean Sheviak, and I am Executive Director of the Capital District Library Council, one of nine reference and research resources systems that comprise the NY 3Rs Association. We have been serving the research needs of New York’s library community for more than forty years.
The New York 3Rs Association members currently include 276 college and university libraries; 460 hospital, museum, corporate, and other specialized libraries; as well as library systems representing more than 5,200 school and public libraries. Our job is to help all these organizations work together both locally and statewide to achieve measurable economies of scale and a significantly increased quality of services.
Our work is primarily funded through state aid to libraries, which has been cut 20% from 2008 levels. These cuts have taken us to 1996 funding levels.
The topic of today’s hearing is the impact of the state budget on library services. We can assure you that those cuts are doing great harm. As examples: reduced system staff means fewer training sessions; curtailed resource sharing means no inter-sharing of library materials for researchers; and fewer electronic resources means more students using Google for their research rather than peer-reviewed scholarship. We know for a fact that fewer books are now being acquired for academic libraries; fewer research materials are available for health care professionals; and far fewer local history collections are being digitized. Researchers and those preparing for those all-important technology jobs need to be trained and supported by information professionals and not left to founder in the morass of the internet, but we can’t do that on 1996 funding levels.
My message to you is simple: the effects of these cuts are real. The danger today is that the cuts are becoming institutionalized and permanent. Every year we wait to see restoration of funds means another year when these cuts become the “new normal,” and resources we need to succeed in our technology-based world are permanently lost.
We in the NY 3Rs have been doing things right all along: we collaborate locally, regionally, and statewide to save money and improve services. We are models for the efficiencies of shared services being encouraged throughout government. And our reward for that has been a 20% cut in funding.
We appreciate the committee’s work. We understand we have good friends on the committee and appreciate their support and hard work on behalf of libraries. The NY 3Rs Association encourages the committee to recommend and work for restoration of state aid to libraries to its 2008 amount: $102 million. We understand that is a large percentage increase, but it is also a very modest dollar increase.
This statement in .PDF format [121k]
Honorable members of this committee: My name is John Eberhardt and I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Library Trustees Association of New York State. Today I am here representing over 7,000 library and library system trustees in the State. The mission of our organization is to educate, represent and advocate for trustees because they are the stewards of one billion dollars each year in local, state and federal public funding; one point three billion dollars in public and private annual income; and three point three billion dollars in library collections, equipment and real estate.We are volunteers who have undertaken an enormous fiduciary responsibility.
The education and training of trustees to fulfill this important decision-making role is vital. These areteaching programs that are offered to trustees by libraries and library systems. This is another essential library service that is provided.
The Library Trustees Association has a certification program in place that acknowledges trustees who have demonstrated the effort to educate themselves about libraries,library issues and the responsibilities associated with the position of library trustee.
The Library Trustees Association cannot emphasize enough the importance of library funding and the impact libraries have on the communities in New York State.
Thank you for holding this hearing and giving us the opportunity to speak.
This statement in .PDF format [13k]
Remarks by Dave Donelson, President, Westchester Library System Board of Trustees, and Trustee, Harrison Public Library
Thank you for this opportunity to report on how state funding has contributed to the growth of library service in all its many facets in Westchester County. As a library layman who has served as a trustee since 2003, I have seen firsthand how important state funding has been to accomplishing our mission of empowering libraries and empowering communities. On behalf of the trustees and other volunteers with whom I serve, I thank you for your support.
New York State funding represents about 38% of the Westchester Library System annual revenue. It is a powerful driver of a growing number of library-based activities that serve many populations in our diverse communities and supports our economic, educational, and quality of life initiatives. In Westchester County, the Westchester Library System (WLS) and the member public libraries have worked collaboratively with many local partners to bring a wide range of services to all county residents. In this testimony we will highlight just a few of the ways that WLS has used State Library Aid to support our local communities.
Learning Ambassadors provides summer training and employment opportunities for youth aged 14-19, with most participants residing in economically disadvantaged communities. The participants are trained in communication, library science, and technical skills, then fill a variety of roles that support children and teen summer reading activities as well as computer workshops for adults. The twenty seven (27) ambassadors this past summer reported an increase in self-confidence, a better competency in technology and early childhood literacy skills, and a stronger desire to excel in school. Numerous local agencies teamed with WLS to make this program possible, including the member libraries, the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, the Great Potential Program at SUNY Purchase and Upward Bound at Mercy College.
GED Connect! is a technology-based, volunteer driven project that helps adult learners obtain their General Equivalency Degree. WLS created and supports an online portal for low-literacy users, www.firstfind.org, that allows for 24/7 access to this learning tool at no cost to users. Trained volunteers provide one-on-one learning support for students at eight (8) public libraries throughout Westchester County: Greenburgh, Mount Kisco, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Ossining, Peekskill, White Plains, and Yonkers. Since this program began in 2011, demand has grown steadily. Local partners working with WLS on this initiative include Westchester Community College in Peekskill, Westhab in Mount Vernon, and Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco.
Senior Benefits Information Centers (SBICs) help residents aged 60 and older to understand and apply for Medicare and other benefits and services that help them lead healthier and happier lives. The Medicare Rights Center (MRC) and the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services (WDSPS) partner with WLS to make this program available at eight (8) public libraries in the county: Greenburgh, Mount Kisco, New Rochelle, Peekskill (Field) , Port Chester-Rye Brook, Shrub Oak (John C. Hart Memorial), Tarrytown (Warner) and Yonkers (Grinton I. Will). In 2011 the SBIC program received a National Association of Counties Achievement Award for its contribution to enhancing effective county government.
Economic Development has long been supported by WLS and our member libraries. Among the initiatives made possible in some part by state funding are:
- Career counseling. WLS has partnered with the public libraries to offer career and educational counseling seminars, workshops and one-on-one session to the public for 31 years. These programs are available to the public at no cost, and as one could imagine the demand for them is very high. In 2011 over 2,400 individuals participated in these programs. Historically, more than 90% of them rate the experience as “good to excellent” and 42% of those surveyed reported a positive change in employment status such as finding more challenging work, receiving higher pay and/or an increase in promotional opportunities since attending a program.
- The Westchester Putnam One-Stop. WLS and the public libraries in Greenburgh, Katonah, North Castle, and Tarrytown (Warner) have shared resources to create satellite locations that provide easier access to resources and services to job seekers and the under-employed.
- Technology infrastructure. WLS supports the technology infrastructure for the public computer workstations and wireless access at 44 public library sites in Westchester. This technology infrastructure allows library staff to lead computer training and social media workshops for the public, allows individuals to create and update resumes and cover letters, and enables job seekers to fill out online application forms or search job related databases such as JobNow and Career and Job Accelerator.
Training and Professional Development through WLS is also made possible by State Library Aid. Library staff and trustees at the member libraries benefit from a range of training and professional development activities. Recent workshops covered a multitude of topics including autism, compliance and governance issues, customer service, fundraising, grant writing, immigrant services, supporting special needs students and their families, social media, volunteer recruitment, and working with at-risk youth. The goal of these workshops is to help libraries operate more effectively and engage with all members of their communities.
State Library Construction Grants have been put to good use in Westchester County. This year WLS supported fourteen (14) library construction projects through the State’s Public Library Construction Grant Program. These projects will allow libraries to create facilities that better meet the growing need for community and meeting room spaces, update and replace aging infrastructure, create ADA compliant facilities, and help address the growing role of libraries as relief centers during times of catastrophe. From an economic perspective, library construction projects provide additional local jobs and enhance retail sales at nearby businesses. One of those fourteen projects is particularly close to my heart since the state construction grant was leveraged by the Harrison Public Library to attract additional private funding to construct the library’s first Teen Center, which will include a feature-rich high-tech environment dedicated to a population currently under-served by that library.
Public libraries and public library systems have been, and continue to be, a good investment for the State of New York. By encouraging collaboration and using leverage, state funding improves library service and helps our public libraries operate more efficiently. The Westchester Library System saves $36 million annually for our 38 member libraries by providing cooperative programs, technology, and other services made possible in large part by New York State funding. We thank you for your past support and strongly encourage the Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology to support an increase in library aid for the 2013-2014 State budget.
This statement in .PDF format [28k]
Remarks by Mary Jean Jakubowski, Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System; with Thomas C. Bindeman, Executive Director of the Nioga Library System, and Sheryl Knab, Executive Director of the Western New York Library Resources Council (3Rs)
Good morning (afternoon). I am Mary Jean Jakubowski, Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System (B&ECPL). With me today is Sheryl Knab, Executive Director of the Western New York Library Resources Council and Tom Bindeman, Executive Director of the Nioga Library System.
We come before you today as a united front and appreciate this opportunity to speak with you on the impact that the State Budget has on the libraries throughout the Western New York area and all of NYS.
Libraries play a significant role in communities. They are cultural hubs, centers of education, providers of technology, partners in workforce development, economic engines and yes, they are entertainment venues.
Each week, 2.25 million people visit a library in New York State. In 70% of NY, libraries serve as their community’s option for free internet access. 98% of NY libraries have helped someone look for or apply for a job.
Public Library Systems are the drivers of consolidated services….insuring member libraries access to the tools necessary to meet residents’ needs. They provide automated circulation systems that enhance the processing, loan and delivery of library materials, by leveraging funds and by negotiating group purchases of materials, databases, and services. Systems provide cost efficient delivery services– moving materials in and between libraries. They provide or enable their members to offer high speed Internet access, technology programming and regionalized collection development. And systems and their members offer continuing education opportunities as well as physical space for community organizations to conduct meetings and training sessions.
Library Systems, such as the Western New York Library Resources Council – one of the 9 New York 3R’s systems - provide the means for libraries and other library systems to collaborate and work together to provide services such as Ask US 24/76 – a state-wide information service staff solely by librarians from around the state and backed up by libraries from around the county. 3R Systems provide libraries of different types the opportunity to share information and build off of each other’s strengths so the educational mission of teaching information literacy is grounded in services in every library to assist NY residents from pre-school through college, from careers to retirement. 3R Systems promote collaboration and partnerships developing and leveraging consortia initiatives on a wide variety of topics and services.
Historically, when economic times are difficult the use of libraries increases dramatically. From the Great Depression, through the difficult times of the 1980s and right up to the present economic crisis, the demand by our citizens for quality library service has skyrocketed.
Every day, libraries are being confronted with the crucial task of providing more with less. Current levels of state funding are equal to levels received in 1993. That’s 1993….an entire childhood ago. I am sure you would agree there is not much you can purchase today at 1993 prices and I am sure you would also agree; as a result of reduced funding libraries have been impacted significantly having to reduce services, hours and access to resources.
Last year, for the first time in MANY years we received a slight increase in Library Aid. Please know this was sincerely appreciated and on behalf of all of us, I thank you. Please also be assured that this money was not wasted—here’s but one example: The New York State Library Association (NYLA) indicates that for every $1 of State Aid put into a public library system, public library users yield approximately $12.50 in services – a tremendous return on investment.
Therefore, we implore your consideration to reinstate (restore) library funding to $102 million. Not for those of us who are in this room, but for the residents of New York State who are demanding our services.
This statement in .PDF format [75k]
Remarks by Sara Dallas, Director, Southern Adirondack Library System; with Alex Gutelius, Director, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, David Golden, Trustee, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, and Kathleen U. Naftaly, Acting Director, Crandall Public Library
Thank you, Assemblyman Reilly, for allowing us the opportunity to address the Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education. We will touch on the impact the 2012-2013 State Budget has had on the Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS) and the thirty-four public libraries in Hamilton, Warren, Washington and Saratoga Counties. We also will address the important roles the public libraries and SALS play for the residents of our region. We are Alex Gutelius, Director of the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library, Kathy Naftaly, Acting Director of the Crandall Public Library and Sara Dallas, Director of the Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS).
SALS does not directly serve the public. SALS provides services to its thirty-four member libraries to help them best serve their communities. SALS receives approximately 95% of its revenue from NY State through funding formulas. We thank you, the Senate and the Governor for recognizing the important role libraries play for New Yorkers by our increasing library funding in 2012. We are ever hopeful to see a 20.4 million dollar increase in library funding in FY 2013.
Serving as a model of cooperation, the Southern Adirondack Library System and the Mohawk Valley Library System collaborate in providing a shared network, catalog, resources, circulation system, computer support, hardware and software that allows all residents in eight counties to borrow books, DVDs, CDs, locally and/or regionally. There are delivery vans that move these items from library to library, saving gas and time for the public. In 2011, this courier service moved almost 3 million items throughout the eight counties.
In the SALS region, population of 330,359 (Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties) our public libraries are being used more now than ever before:
- 2.3 million people visited a public library in our region
- 475,393 people used a public computer workstation to access the internet
- Approximately 226.8 FTEs are employed by libraries in the SALS system
[Below is] a chart depicting the distribution of the 2012-2013 NY State Construction funds. Unfortunately, the money was not able to fully fund the projects submitted.
|Library||Project||Total Project Cost
|Town of Ballston Community
|Replace cracking and heaving sidewalks to improve accessibility and replace two signs with one combination library name and electronic sign.||$75,570.00||$56,677.00||$27,973|
|Greenwich Free Library||There will be significant renovation of the building to improve patron access to library, as well as improving safety and functionality.||$51,681.00||$38,760.00||$38,760|
|Town of Lake Pleasant Public Library||A new library extension, planned in stages, will provide more space, flexibility, openness, latest technology and work space for the future library.||$113,600.00||$85,200.00||$85,200|
|Mechanicville District Public Library||Construction of an addition and renovation of existing library building to expand the resources offered to better serve the needs of the community.||$1,409,520.00||$215,480.00||$90,168|
|Richards Library||This construction project will complete Phase 3 of an ongoing building addition in the library to provide access and programming.||$195,035.00||$195,035.00
|Saratoga Springs Public
|Renovation of ground floor, focusing on service improvements and expansion of Children's Room space devoted to brain development and early literacy.||$415,495.00||$207,747.00||$40,978|
|Stillwater Free Library||The Stillwater Free Library seeks assistance in funding the purchase and installation of a generator.||$7,500.00||$3,750.00||$3,750|
|Stony Creek Free Library||The Stony Creek Free Library will begin renovations to its adjacent church building: asbestos abatement, window glazing and kitchen / bath renovations.||$14,650.00||$10,988.00||$10,988|
|Waterford Public Library||This project involves carpeting and painting the juvenile services space of the library as well as upgrading the cabling required for data networks.||$7,339.00||$5,000.00||$3,670|
|*Can't request 100%, actual max. is $146,276|
As Central Library for SALS Crandall Public Library positions itself as a bridge between the system and the other libraries; we speak many languages, that of technology/logistics and customer service. Crandall Public Library is the community’s incubator for lifelong education, quality of life, and economic development.
Portions of Central Library programs and services are composed of state (CLDA and CBA) and local funds. High-points include:
- Central Library Interlibrary Loan provided 38,933 items in 2011. This averages about 115 items loaned for every day we were open! We are on pace to eclipse this figure in 2012.
- CLDA funds are for the improvement of the Central Library’s function as a major reference, information, interlibrary loan and electronic resource in the system. With CBA funds, Crandall Public Library continued to purchase print non-fiction books as well as the evolving realm of digital materials (both audio and ebooks) and a portion of the database itself for the OverDrive “virtual branch.” In 2011 there were 21,749 check-outs of electronic materials a 26.17% increase over the number of checkouts in 2010.
- Continued to add to Crandall’s in-depth adult, non-fiction collections to supplement services to the 31.56% Crandall cardholders who are Central Library patrons. Central library staff is always willing to share their expertise with member libraries and provide training in special collections and resources such as health, self-check technology, employment preparation, and genealogy.
For the past 3 years Southern Adirondack Library System libraries and customers have access to job skills and job readiness training through our Public Computer Center funded through the New York State Library as a conduit for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). One Central Library customer stated:
The Library resources and events provides me with inspiration and insights to help guide my professional and personal goals
Central libraries and systems honor their accountability to the citizens of New York State. With this partnership every local public library no matter what their size can be confident that the resources and services funded by the State will be there to fulfill user demands beyond those afforded by local tax dollars.
Why and how are people using the library? Here are some examples from the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library:
In 2006 the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library opened its new branch - and that year our library loaned about 475,000 items. Our projection for 2012 is that the library will loan over 900,000 items this year – an increase of nearly 90% in 6 years.
During that same time period, our library has doubled the number of programs we offer each year – and attendance at those programs has increased from 9,000 people in 2006 – to nearly 24,000 in 2012. Our library welcomes between 1,000 and 1,500 people through the doors every day.
Libraries are more than the number of items we have loaned – we are about people and providing valued and essential services to the people of our communities. For example, last year the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library held a Senior Expo – which was a day-long event that brought together over 40 local not-for-profit organizations offering services to seniors together with the seniors and their families. The Expo included 12 programs and over 250 people attended.
Previously the library has held volunteer fairs for adults and teens – with a similar focus – to connect people in the community with organizations that need their help.
The library actively participates in community events – from the July 4th Parade – to fall festivals and many school events. Our Library is an integral part of the community – and the members of our community have come to expect the library’s participation.
The library is providing job search assistance in a way that meets the needs of our community members. Librarians continue to provide support for individuals submitting online job applications, but we have also added our “Monday Morning Job Club”. Led by a local career professional unemployed professionals meet each week to network and discuss topics relevant to their job search. The people who attend don’t necessarily need resume writing support, or help in applying for jobs – but rather require the networking connections and support received from professionals in similar situations.
Work closely with local literacy agencies:
- 3 ESOL classes at the Library each week
- Specially designated study room for Literacy/ESOL tutoring
These are just a few examples of what the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library is doing for the community every day.
Part of the reason we continue to be able to provide this level of service is the support we receive at the system level (SALS).
As the Library Board faces the challenge of meeting the demand for more services and collections while minimizing tax rate increases – the need for cooperative services such as those provided by SALS becomes even more critical.
Earlier Sara mentioned the sharing of materials between SALS libraries and MVLS libraries. For our patrons, this is a seamless service – that utilizes not only the cooperative delivery service – but also the cooperative ILS system. Patrons don’t care where the book comes from, but they reap the benefits of these shared services if provided by each individual library would cost local taxpayers significantly more. To put a dollar value on this service – in 2011 our library borrowed 45,424 items from other libraries for our patrons. If we had to purchase all of those items – the cost would likely be over $500,000.
Continued funding for library systems and libraries in New York State is essential. The support provided to by library systems through cooperative and shared services, continuing education and technical support is crucial for the continued success of our local libraries and the communities they serve.
Thank you for your time.
This statement in .PDF format [257k; also includes a chart showing capital region library use statistics for 2011]
Good afternoon. I am Maureen O’Connor and it is my pleasure to deliver testimony today on behalf of Tom Galante, President & CEO of Queens Library. I want to begin by thanking this committee and its Chairman, Assemblyman Bob Reilly, for inviting us here today. I also want to recognize and thank the Queens members of this Committee, as well as the entire Queens delegation to the New York State Assembly, for your ongoing support.
I am pleased to join my colleagues today in sharing with you the value of public libraries. I am especially glad to be able to personally thank this committee for your role in delivering a State budget last year, which, for the first time in years, included an increase in funding to libraries. We know that libraries are more important to New Yorkers than ever before, and this increase demonstrates that New York State supports their continued growth and success. We hope it is the beginning of a sustained investment.
I would like to take a few minute to share with you some of the work that Queens Library has done in the past year, since my last visit to this committee. First, a little background: Queens Library operates 62 community libraries, seven Adult Learning Centers, Queens Library for Teens in Far Rockaway and the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica. We serve a population of 2.3 million residents in Queens, many of whom are new New Yorkers, having arrived in Queens recently and often speak a language other than English at home. In Fiscal Year 2012, Queens Library loaned over 18 million items and welcomed 12.5 million visitors. More importantly, we provided free educational opportunities for every visitor of every age - from toddlers to senior citizens. We expanded our job information and job search services and expanded our computer training classes. We added more computers and more public computer sessions. We offered more programs and had more program attendance than ever before. Last year, over 37,000 formal programs welcomed over 700,000 participants. All of this, it bears mentioning, was accomplished in an environment where overall government funding continues to slide.
Despite huge restorations of proposed cuts by the New York City Council and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in July of last year, the library sustained a loss of over $2 million, bringing our total City Funding reduction since the economic downturn began in 2008 to nearly $15 million. On a State level, funding had also been on a steady decline, with over $1.5 million lost through the 2011/2012 budget. Last year, we began to make up that ground with the 3% increase, which added just over $122,000 to our State Operating funds.
Reversing the downward trend of funding to libraries was an incredible achievement for the State of New York. Unfortunately, the needs remain great and the years of funding reductions have begun to take their toll on public service. In the last year, the hours open and library staff numbers have trended slightly downward, while wait lists for popular books and other materials have grown. Library staff is stretched to the limit to deliver quality library service.
Nevertheless, New York State has historically played a critical role in the successes of Queens Library. Thanks to your support, we have seen many successes delivering quality resources, programs and state-of-the-art facilities to our customers.
We lean heavily on New York State funding to maintain current collections and materials. Books and materials are the oxygen that supplies the library system. Despite last year’s increase, our library materials budget remains a shadow of its former self, with 30% fewer books purchased than in 2008. Many libraries are increasingly facing the impossible choice between keeping the doors open and keeping the shelves full. It is a choice no library wants to make and one no library patron wants to face. This is particularly challenging in an age when the Materials budget needs to cover not just print material, but also the growing world of available digital content. Libraries today stand at the crossroads where demand for e-books is on the rise, yet print materials remain the preferred method for many. For a library, the mission is to provide free and fair access to information, no matter the delivery method. We are, you could say, technology agnostic. Whether it is a print novel, an audio tape, an ESOL class, a newspaper or an e-book, the library is committed to providing that information to its patrons, free of charge. Last year, Queens was the first library in the city to begin lending e-readers. Each device was pre-loaded with digital content organized by genre. The pilot, which launched at our Central library, was widely popular and quickly expanded into other locations. We can only continue to meet our growing demand with your continued support.
State support has also helped Queens Library continue to build state-of-the-art libraries that serve as community hubs for families, children, teens and seniors. The State Construction Grant funding is critical to planned renovations in four libraries in Queens. The Bellerose, Bayside, Fresh Meadows and Woodhaven libraries will get interior makeovers in the coming year. These projects, which are being funded through a combination of City and State allocated funds, will bring new efficient technology for automated self-service check-in and check-out machines. They will bring new bright finishes, handicapped accessibility, smart and comfortably designed library spaces and much needed infrastructure improvements to those four communities.
Almost exactly a month ago today, New York had an unwelcome visitor - Hurricane Sandy. Lives and neighborhoods were forever altered. It will take time for our states to recover. With strong leadership at the City, State and Federal level, we surely will. There are so many heroes of the storm and so many agencies that will participate in the recovery. Libraries will absolutely play a critical role. In Queens, we have been on the ground from the earliest days. In Southern Queens, four of our libraries took on floodwaters and were all but destroyed. Several others were without power for weeks. None of these challenges hindered our efforts to deliver critical assistance in the days immediately after the storm to the neighborhoods we serve.
- We immediately established an emergency assistance location at our Far Rockaway Library, where—without light or heat—staff and volunteers handed out donated relief supplies and hundreds of meals daily. Soon, with a donated generator, lights and computers came back up to give people their first chance to charge phones or go online to reach out to friends and family.
- We dispatched a Mobile Library to the destroyed Peninsula Library where we have been providing social service assistance, online reference and information in a rapidly changing environment. Questions were plentiful: “Where is my child going to school tomorrow?” “Where should I vote today?” Some people just stopped in for a shoulder to cry on. The Mobile Library was positioned in a hub of emergency service providers and was both a haven and a resource to guide families in need. Volunteer librarians even provided outdoor story hours for kids waiting for their parents seeking services.
- At Arverne Library, another location where the library itself was destroyed, a temporary library complete with computers and staff was opened in the lot next door last week, while many in the community remained without power weeks after the storm.
What became clear in the aftermath of the storm, when phone networks remained down, when computers were flooded out and people displaced, is that a library can step in and provide the most critical of resources - information. Directing people to relief sites for food and water, to FEMA sites to apply for assistance, to their new school or new polling place when the original one had been destroyed, all proved critical to the early days of the recovery. Despite our own losses, which are still being calculated but are estimated in the $10M range, Queens Library is committed to the communities we serve for the long haul.
As the needs change and the recovery continues, libraries will remain the first place families turn.
- We will continue to connect youngsters to enriching afterschool programs that support their studies in school.
- We will connect tens of thousands of teenagers and at-risk youth each day to a world of literature, of adult supervision and afterschool programs in a safe environment where they can spend their time.
- We will remain the largest employer of teenagers in our borough, hiring young people to reshelf books and assist patrons with computer learning.
- We will continue to serve the nearly 50% of foreign born residents in queens with cultural programs, English language classes, basic adult education, and the free resources that aid them in acclimating and becoming productive members of our society.
- We will help our customers get back to work by connecting thousands of job seekers with resume writing workshops, computer literacy and career counseling.
- We will connect seniors and the homebound with programs and materials by mail.
- We will refer residents to affordable health care and life saving screening services, improving the overall health of the community.
- We will continue to be the primary provider for computer access across the borough to bridge the digital divide to help New Yorkers most in need.
With so much hanging in the balance, we ask you to again prioritize libraries and increase the statewide commitment from Albany. With your increased support, we can put tools for success directly into more of our nearly 900,000 cardholders many more times a year. This great tradition of our service will help all New Yorkers better their lives.
Again, on behalf of Tom Galante and the Queens Library, I want to express my deep appreciation for your support and for welcoming our testimony here today. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
This statement in .PDF format [41k]
"Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission." -- Toni Morrison
In the increasingly competitive global market place success is largely dependent on one’s level of education and access to information. The future success of our State rests upon the extent to which we can assure that our children are provided an exceptional education and are able to benefit from a superior information infrastructure.
As public spending comes increasingly under scrutiny, it is those institutions that embrace cooperation, provide consolidated services, exhibit clear responses to regional needs and demonstrate the highest return for every dollar spent, that will emerge as the most worthy of public funding. Since 1959 the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS) has operated in this manner.
In the last couple of years it appears as if this notion is being heralded as a paradigm shift that will improve how the State operates. Yet from its inception, over 50 years ago, RCLS along with the library systems throughout the State embraced the concept that cooperation and consolidation is a means to improving the quality of life for New Yorkers while keeping costs under control. Library systems are the “poster children” for cooperative and consolidated services.
RCLS, working cooperatively with our member libraries, has been able to maintain a basket of consolidated services that continues to help our members provide high quality local services while keeping local expenditures in check. Together we have established a network covering nearly 2,500 square miles that allows for resource sharing and equity of access. Through a public-private partnership we have established a fiber-optic communication network that connects all of our libraries. During the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this network ensured that our libraries in Rockland County were able to provide public Internet access to their residents when these services were lost in three states. Our delivery service is able to transport library materials to and from our members for under $0.20 per item. In the decade from 1990 to 2000 we were able to help all of our libraries automate their services.
Attached to this testimony is a document that shows the return on investment (ROI), the value of the services we provide to our members for every dollar spent. This is a conservative calculation and shows that we provide $6.61 for every dollar spent on all of our services except automation, where the value is $3.45 for every dollar spent.
Libraries are part of the education and information infrastructure within the State. They offer much needed resources to those who cannot afford to buy books or purchase Internet access. They offer government services such as the ability to file a tax return online. They offer entrepreneurs the resources to start a business or to grow their business. They offer preschool children opportunities to learn to read and develop a life-long love of reading. They offer Summer Reading programs that help children to maintain or improve their reading level over the summer vacation. They offer people access to computers to apply for jobs. They provide people with a space to meet and engage others in their community. They are a focal point during a civic crisis, such as Hurricane Sandy. Libraries make a difference in people’s lives.
Library systems support the work of libraries and help to reduce local tax expenditures while maintaining high quality services. Library systems are models of cooperative and consolidated services. Together libraries and library systems form a key element within both the education and information infrastructures of New York State.
We need your support! We understand that the economy of the State requires prudent spending; all we ask is that State Aid to libraries is treated in the same manner as Aid to schools. Let us work together to make sure that New York State returns to its leadership position within the Nation and the world. Let us work together, as the Governor has asked to “improve student achievement,” “increase parent and family engagement,” “help high-need and low-wealth communities” and “manage educational funding and costs” by supporting State Aid to libraries.
Together we can make a difference!
This statement in .PDF format [127k; includes the document that shows the return on investment (ROI)]
I am Ira Simon, a resident of Monticello, New York. I currently serve as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Ramapo Catskill Library System where I have been a Board Member and Officer since 2004. Prior to that I was a member and officer of the board of the Ethelbert Crawford Library in Monticello, and was the President of the Sullivan County Public Library Association from its inception in 1998 through 2004.
In my capacity as a Board Member of the Ethelbert Crawford library I had the opportunity to discover the impact that RCLS had on the services our local library was able to deliver to our local patrons. Access to the seemingly unlimited collections of all member libraries through the ANSER System and Inter Library Loans enabled our small community the resources of a vast system. Our initial foray into computerized technology was made possible with seed money from the system, and the maintenance and continuous upgrades to the system were developed by RCLS. Staff and Trustee training was developed and implemented by the system. Specialists in Children’s Services, Outreach, and Development met with our staff to develop programs and design critical programs for our patrons.
As a Board Member of RCLS, I discovered that these services were replicated forty eight times over, to varying degrees, at each member library throughout the system.
During the nine years I have served on the Board for RCLS I have witnessed the continuous erosion to the funding levels established by law in 1990. The result of this diminishment of resources has been a consolidation of services within the system, coupled with the elimination of certain programs. Finally, with no alternatives, and much debate, the trustees have implemented service fees to member libraries to offset the shortfall caused by funding cuts.
This gradual shift of the responsibility of support from a state mandate, to localities, seems to me to be unfairly burdensome. Local sources are already supporting their libraries. The trend of reduced system funding seems to have no end in sight. Inevitably our service fees will increase if we are to continue offering the services that are vital to the patrons of the libraries in our system. It is imperative that Library Systems are insulated from the uncertainty of inconsistency, and supported as Education Law intended.
This statement in .PDF format [39k]
Thank you to Chairman Bob Reilly, New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, and the members and staff of the Committee, for holding this public hearing on the subject of funding public libraries in New York State.
The opportunity to provide testimony is very important, so though I am not able to be in Albany today, I appreciate your consideration of the following points:
- Our libraries and System provide education, programs, and services throughout our region
- We use collaboration, technology, and consolidated services to leverage resources in increasingly effective ways
- Citizens support local tax increases to support local public libraries
- Impact of 2012-2013 state budget on system services and public libraries in the Southern Tier Library System
- Future State funding needs
Our libraries and System are providing education, programs and services throughout our region. Public libraries are education for residents of all ages. Public libraries provide print and online information for preschoolers, students, families, job seekers and entrepreneurs. Because of libraries, story hours and the best books written for children are available to help every family, regardless of income, get their children off to a good start. Libraries help with job preparedness, lifelong education, and computer skills. Libraries provide the computer training needed by many due to the fast pace of technology change, and especially needed by job-seekers who may not have the computer skills to search for jobs, complete applications online, prepare and attach resumes. Libraries are vital community hubs, especially in rural areas, and are heavily used. Southern Tier libraries loaned almost 1.7 million items last year, provided free access to a total of 360 public internet computers which were used by residents 256,000 times, provided programs attended by over 89,000 children and hosted over 1.2 million library visits.
Libraries are the model for using collaboration and technology to better leverage resources and stretch dollars. Library Systems and member libraries work together over big geographical areas. The Southern Tier Library System serves 48 library buildings, provides shared integrated library computer systems, software which makes possible a regional online catalog, supports the shared patron database permitting residents to use any library in the region, allows libraries to check items out and track them electronically, and enables residents to search over a million books, magazines, DVDs, and other materials online.
Fast and reliable delivery service provided by library systems means that residents don’t have to travel further than their local library to get access to materials from throughout the region. In the 3,500 square mile Southern Tier area, System drivers are on the road 300 days a year covering 99,000 miles a year to deliver the books and other library materials requested by residents. Last year over 165,000 library items were shared between and among members of the Southern Tier Library System.
- If each library had to purchase, at an estimated cost of $20 per item, all of the library materials requested by residents, the total annual cost would be over $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars.
- If each library had to mail the item to the borrower, at an estimated cost of $2.75 per item, the annual cost would be over $453,000.
Rising gas prices make this vital and cost-effective service harder to provide.
Library director Gayle Greuber, Peterson Library, Odessa, said, “The Southern Tier Library System maintains the circulation system and facilitates interlibrary loan through STARCat (regional online catalog) and through physical delivery of materials. All of these services are crucial for serving our patrons.”
Library systems provide the intellectual capital – know-how, skills, and expertise needed by local libraries to build services for their residents, including:
- Building collaborations with organizations like day care providers, literacy services, and Workforce Development.
- Providing critical support and expertise for planning and implementing technology initiatives
- Strengthening outreach services to families, job seekers, and residents who are elderly, or have physical or learning disabilities
Voters support tax increases for local library services. Since 1998 voters have approved 95% of library budget propositions in the Southern Tier area. All 2012 library propositions were approved; this month Chemung County voters approved a tax increase for the County Library by 70%.
Impact of 2012-2013 state budget on system services and public libraries in the Southern Tier Library System. Since 2008, libraries have sustained deep cuts– six cuts in state funding since 2008, resulting in a 21% reduction of funds and a dramatic impact on System services. Even with local libraries paying more of the cost of shared System services, services have been reduced. Library directors are asking for more – more deliveries, more training, and as one director said “more technical support and help with computer equipment installations to keep our library technology up-to-date.” The 2012 – 2013 State aid budget increase over 2011 is an important beginning to restore library funding.
Future State Funding Needs.
- Increase state public library construction aid to $50 million and enable libraries to fund last-mile telecommunications connections with state construction funds
- Continue restoration of state aid to libraries to 2008 levels to strengthen library services
Libraries and Library Systems work together to strengthen New York Communities. State funds supplement local funds, enable libraries to provide 21st century services, multiply resources, and expand shared services. Shared system services strengthen libraries, build communities, support economic development and enable every resident to have equal access to excellent library services.
Thank you very much for your consideration of these remarks.
This statement in .PDF format [35k]
Chairman Reilly and esteemed Assembly Members who also serve on this Committee: Assemblyman Abinanti, Assemblyman Boyle, Assemblywoman Clark, Assemblywoman Meng, Assemblyman Palmesano, Assemblyman Roberts, Assemblyman Walter, and Assemblyman Zabrowski, I appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony on the impact the 2012-13 state budget has had on the Mid York Library System and its 43 member libraries.
As a result of the 4.95% increase in state aid for libraries, Mid York received $30,692 which enabled us to maintain and retain our current level of services. Additionally, the increased funding allowed us to develop our new Strategic Plan of Service in alignment with the Regents Advisory Council’s 2020 Vision Plan.
Examples of programs and services we provide to our libraries and their local communities include:
- Expertise of library consultants and other professional staff
- Universal system-wide borrowing using a common Integrated Library System
- System-wide delivery services of library material-chartered to serve 369,337 people (2000 census) in a 3,280 square mile area
- Interlibrary Loan (ILL) using OCLC's Resource Sharing Module
- System-wide licensing of Overdrive for downloadable audiobooks and e-books
- MyInfoQuest (Text-a-Librarian) and AskUs 24/7 Virtual Reference Service
- Electronic databases-system-wide licenses to compliment the NOVELNY suite
- Summer Reading Program
- Movie Licensing consortia pricing
- Periodical ILL through collaboration with CLRC
- Back-up reference and information services
- Professional development, training, and workshops for member library personnel and the public
- IT support- maintaining a complex and secure computer network including 372 public access computers
- Wi-Fi access at all libraries
- System-wide e-mail service
- Outreach services to nursing homes and correctional facilities and other agencies
- Collaborative participation with community partners in the Madison and the Herkimer/Oneida Literacy Coalitions
- Collaborative and technology-based trustee training with 7 other public library systems(NYLTO)
- Facilitate the $14M New York State Public Library Construction Grant
Through collaboration and technology, our cooperative system has been able to provide an outstanding level of library service to the public in each community within Mid York’s service area consisting of Herkimer, Madison, and Oneida Counties. The Mid York Library System makes it possible for the public to access many services too costly for the member libraries to provide on their own. As local funding diminishes, our libraries turn to the System more and more to assist them in continuing to provide essential programs and services. While each library is autonomous and their budgets are small, they and Mid York work together to ensure that tax dollars are invested in our communities in the most effective ways possible.
Besides giving testimony regarding the impact of the current budget, another aspect of this hearing is to determine the future needs of public library systems and public libraries. Restoration of funding to statutory levels will permit the Mid York Library System to fully realize and implement the goals and objectives of our 2013-2016 Strategic Plan of Service.
Also, a significant increase in the New York State Public Library Construction Grant amount would help systems and libraries construct 21st century broadband infrastructure to meet the rapidly changing needs and demand of an increasingly technology-driven society.
It is clearly evident that the future information needs of the residents of New York State as delivered by public libraries and public library systems can only be met through a stable funding stream. Public libraries are always evolving, driven by the communities they serve. Public library systems are always evolving, driven by the needs of the libraries they serve. The capabilities created by our collaboration has created a way of providing equal access to knowledge resources along with assisting and training people in retrieving and using them.
Providing cost effective ways for our member libraries to deliver essential services that they cannot afford to supply independently is what we, the systems, do. Public libraries are community and information centers, guarantors of equity of access to information-a cornerstone of our democracy. Together, we promote and support our communities.
Thank you for your consideration and all of your past support.
This statement in .PDF format [76k]
Statement by Tom Lawrence, Convener, Central Libraries Association of New York State
I am submitting testimony today on behalf of the twenty-six central and co-central libraries of New York State. I am the library Director of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District, the Central Library of the Mid-Hudson Library System.
New York State funding in support of public library services is critical to the success of central library services to residents of the public library systems. Working with the systems, the central libraries deliver a range of services to fellow system libraries as well as directly to patrons. Whether it be traditional reference service provided to patrons who enter the library or to those who use email, chat, fax or text, central libraries continue to assist patrons on a daily basis when the smaller, local library does not have the resources or staff expertise to provide timely assistance.
Based on a Central Library Plan of Service created by each public library system board and each central library board, central libraries provide a wide range of consultative and support services. These services include the following:
- support of commercial database selection and licensing
- non-fiction material purchases in a depth and breadth not typically found in many public libraries on order to sustain intellectual and educational development
- commercial database use training for member library staff
- local library collection assessments to determine current applicability and appropriateness for patron use and access
- staff training in areas of front line reference assistance
- workforce development in areas of technology training and assistance with job searches
- interlibrary loan of materials needed by patrons that are not held regionally
Central libraries and public library systems work cooperatively to enhance library services provided by local libraries but, unlike most systems, central libraries are on the front lines. Their staff have daily contact with patrons who have a wide range of needs. The experience of this “real” library work is critical to the practical development of plans and services that meet the public library needs of New Yorkers.
Systems do a great job in providing critical support services such as delivery of materials, management of shared integrated library systems that offer check-out and cataloging of library materials, trustee training, and continuing education. Hundreds of public libraries wouldn’t be able to function without them. But the real face of public library service is in the local libraries found throughout New York in communities both large and small, affluent and not-so affluent.
With access to central library and system support, every local public library can be confident that the resources and services funded by the State will be there to fulfill user demands beyond those afforded by local tax dollars and that every New York State resident will achieve equity in public library service, regardless of where they may live.
This statement in .PDF format [74k]
Statement by Claudia Depkin, Director, Haverstraw King's Daughters Public Library
To the Honorable Members of the Committee:
American author Isaac Asimov once said, "I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it." In New York State, the backbone of all our public libraries is the library systems that are funded by the State. You don’t need me to tell you the history of public library systems in New York State or how they get funded. Others can take care of that more eloquently. What I’m here to do today is to tell you why public library systems are important to your constituents, even if they don’t know anything about how or why library systems exist.
Who Am I?
I’m the director of the Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library, in Rockland County. I’m also the president of the Leadership & Management Section of the New York Library Association and the chairperson of the Directors Association at the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS). The Haverstraw Library serves a population of approximately 30,000 and we have stable funding through our Special Legislative District status. Our customers, the general voting public, decide whether we receive a budget increase from year to year. When we do a good job, we get a “yes” vote. I’m happy to report that our budget proposals have passed.
Why Am I Here?
If you look behind the scenes of that good job we’re doing, you’ll see that RCLS plays a large role in our success.
- The library system helps us stretch our public’s dollars by providing opportunities for group purchasing of things we use every day like paper, computers, computer software, and research databases so that people can come into our buildings or even stay at home, and get what they and their families need to succeed.
- The library system helps our management teams by providing real assistance with things like Construction Grant proposals and e-Rate discounts, projects that result in direct dollars coming to us to complete vital projects such as the installation of solar panels, Summer Reading Program funding, and refunds on our telecommunications fees.
- The library system provides expertise and guidance on things like the Annual Report to the State, legal concerns, and questions about our own funding structures, which in turn helps us to make the case for stable library funding in our home communities.
- The library system provides technical know-how to troubleshoot our computers, build our networks, manage our internet traffic, and catalog and circulate our thousands upon thousands of library titles, so that when our
patrons come in our doors, our librarians are able to find what patrons want on our shelves, get it in their hands and make their day.
- The library system provides delivery of library materials so that patrons in the Haverstraw Library, for instance, can borrow items from the public library in Liberty, 2 counties away but part of the same system, saving us tax dollars while still providing access to the information or entertainment library users want.
What Can You Do?
For each year the State doesn’t fully fund the public library systems, we see a bit of those benefits I just mentioned getting chipped away. Even with a 20% reduction in staff in recent years, and the elimination of programs such as the newspaper reading service for the visually impaired, and desktop publishing services for member libraries, RCLS has had to implement a service fee to members, to help offset their shortfall. That means your constituents are paying twice for services that aren’t quite up to par. They’re paying their taxes at the state level, a tiny amount of which gets apportioned to public library systems, and they’re paying their taxes at the local level, a portion of which comes to us.
Please, fund public library systems fully, based on the State Education Law formulas approved in 1990. Use current census figures in those calculations so that our library systems, our public libraries and our patrons enjoy the full benefit of stepping through Asimov’s door of wonder and achievement, into the public library and into an unimagined future of success and well-being.
This statement in .PDF format [191k]
For too many years now we have been using the phrase “in this economy”. What this really means is that we have to do with less, tighten our belts and look for ways to make our resources work harder for us. One very obvious way to do this is to share services, to work cooperatively and to purchase collectively. Some people talk and act as though this was a new idea and maybe for many it is. Not so for libraries. We are the poster child for this method of doing business. In the community we offer the cost benefit of purchasing one to serve many. We don’t stop there, however. We take it to the limit by belonging to a system, which provides so many benefits it would hard to list them all.
Our particular system, the Ramapo-Catskill Library System offers us many options that would be impossible to provide on our own. The way we operate on a day to day basis, circulating material, helping people by providing a wide range of information and preparing material for circulation, are functions centralized at our system. In addition, the collections of each library are accessible to all via interlibrary loan. The delivery of the above interloans would be expensive and out of reach without the benefit of our system. The cost savings to the public, who use this service in record numbers, is incredible.
I have been serving the public as a librarian for 17 years and have seen first-hand what a jewel our system is. People depend on us, especially in these tough economic times, to provide the resources that they can no longer afford on their own. I guess you could say we are ahead of the times. We’re good at what we do and need your help to maintain our ability and even to grow. We are masters are making a little go a long way, but we have reached a point where we need some TLC.
I respectfully ask you to consider the value systems and libraries add to the quality of life in New York State, and to help us help our citizens make New York the best place to live in the USA.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,
Marilyn J. McIntosh, Executive Director
Monroe Free Library
This statement in .PDF format [94k]
I will not be able to attend the Hearing on the “Funding of Public Libraries in New York State” on Thursday, November 29, 2012.... However, I am writing a testimonial letter...to explain the public services and programs that the Frankfort Free Library has, and is providing for our community. By being part of the Mid-York Library System, our three part-time staff members have been able to expand those services throughout the Frankfort area.
In the last two years, the Frankfort Free Library has been able to boost circulation with 50% more intra-library loans, with 6% more library visitors, and with the Mid-York Library System providing free downloads to our patrons’ e-readers from their new digitized collection. Computer use in the Frankfort Free Library has increased from 6,723 in 2010 to 8,035 in 2011. There has been especially an increased usage amongst adults looking for work, and students doing their required homework online. Patrons have been helped to better understand their taxes, their research, and their resource materials online as well.
This year, while undergoing interior and exterior renovations on our 101 year-old building, the staff has been able to have the 2012 Summer Reading Program with 263 children (ages 2-14) participating, a Halloween Haunted Library Program/Contest in conjunction with our local Kiwanis, Energy-Saving Programs, Free Movies shown twice a week, an Afternoon with Santa Program, Free Prom Dress Selection Day, a Card Designing Class, Saturday Kid’s Game Days, an Ice Cream Social, Wednesday Morning Early Literacy Programs, and Story-telling programs at the Frankfort Elementary School.
Several organizations meet and have activities at the Library. They include: The Mohawk Valley Garden Club, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Soccer Organization for Parents, and Fortnightly. Upon Request, there are other adult programs which make use of the library’s facilities. Those are: Community Service Jobs, Volunteers, and Teachers/Tutors who work with their students on the premises.
The Frankfort Free Library is and will continue to provide community-centered activities during our weekly thirty-three hours. Our ongoing communication with Frankfort citizens is invaluable for new possibilities and for new ideas in the future, and our Library stays user-friendly.
This statement in .PDF format [53k]
Statement by J’aimé Pfeiffer, School Library System Director for Capital Region BOCES, Albany
Good morning (afternoon). My name is J’aimé Pfeiffer, and I’m the School Library System Director for Capital Region BOCES here in Albany. First I want to thank you for holding this hearing to listen to concerns, and also for increasing the state aid for School Library Systems for this school year. As you will hear, this funding is extremely important for us to support our school librarians in a number of ways.
In order to give you a better picture of what School Library Systems do, and how we prioritize the spending of funds, I think it’s important for you to have an understanding of the people we support, school librarians. If you haven’t been in a school, or a school library, in the past 10 – 15 years, you might not recognize what goes on there. School librarians do so much more than read and recommend books, and check them in and out! They are first and foremost teachers of information literacy. We are in an era where we have a foot in two worlds – print and technology, and it is important to teach our students how to access the information they need from both. On any given day, you’ll find school librarians teaching classes, collaborating with teachers on lessons, recommending books, websites and databases, balancing budgets to give their students the best resources for the least amount of money and, yes, checking books in and out and re-shelving them before the next class comes in. School librarians have the responsibility to serve all the students and staff in a school. This means that they must be familiar with all curricular areas, state and Common Core standards, and what teachers are covering at any given time to help them find the right resources, and make sure the students have the information literacy skills to meet those standards. They do all of these things with limited resources, shrinking staffs and all too often in more than one building. With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, school librarians have the opportunity to do what they do best – teach information skills in an environment of inquiry – guiding students to ask their own questions and develop curiosity while helping them find the resources that will answer those questions.
Unfortunately, all of this has come about at the same time the economy has taken a serious hit, especially in education. Because school librarians are not mandated in NY State for grades K-6, many districts have made the decision to downsize or eliminate those positions at a time when Common Core is demanding that those information skills be taught. Examples here in the Capital District are districts that have one librarian covering both a secondary and an elementary building; in reality the librarian has to spend most of the time in one building, leaving the other building to be run by a clerk-typist. We have a district with three elementary buildings, none of which have a certified librarian. We have a high school with over 2300 students run by one librarian, three aides who serve primarily as “crowd control” and a clerk-typist who is there only 3 half-days per week. Other districts have librarians going between two or three buildings every week. Who then is working with teachers to select good resources for students when Common Core is demanding more reading from informational texts? How are materials selected for purchases for print and technology? Are outdated materials being left on the shelves for students to find incorrect information to use in their research?
If librarians themselves are not reduced, their support staff is, taking valuable time from their schedules to do administrative tasks rather than teaching, collaborating, and collection development, all of which are the most valuable things they can do for students. More than 20 states, including New York, have done extensive studies that show how having a quality school library with a certified librarian increases overall test scores for all students in all curricular areas. By reducing or eliminating those positions, we are putting our students at risk for not being able to meet the Common Core State Standards because many of those skills are taught by school librarians. As part of the recently adopted 2020 Vision and Plan for Library Services, one of the recommendations from the New York State Regents Advisory Council on Libraries to the New York State Board of Regents is to “Expand the existing Commissioner’s Regulations (91.2) to require an elementary school librarian in every school to strengthen instructional leadership in meeting the P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, and enforce library staffing regulations in all public schools.” As a representative of School Library System Administrators, I would ask that you endorse and support this extension of the mandate that is already in place for secondary buildings.
In addition to staff reductions, school libraries receive materials aid at a rate of $6.25 per student. This figure hasn’t changed in over 25 years, whereas the cost of books now average between $25 - $30 each, and databases can run between $50 and $1500. Many of our school libraries are given only that money with which to purchase materials. For a school with 500 students, that amounts to just over $3000 which could buy maybe a hundred books in one year. One book for every 5 students does not build a quality library. While there are “free” internet sites where students can get information, they cannot replace quality print and e-resources, even assuming there is a librarian in every school to teach them how to “mine” those resources. Fortunately we have some databases that are free to all residents of New York through the NOVEL databases because, again, for many of our schools those are the only e-resources that they can provide for our students.
So that leads us to School Library Systems, and what we do to help our school librarians, both financially and professionally. While every system receives a different amount of money based on square miles and student populations, we have common goals to offer our librarians the best pricing we can find for print and e-resources, and to give them low- or no-cost professional development training. In addition, School Library System Administrators have worked together across several projects and will continue to do even more collaborating in the future.
Perhaps the best example of this is the Information Fluency Continuum which has been several years in the making, and in fact meets the first recommendation for School Libraries in the 2020 Vision for Libraries. Barbara Stripling, former School Library System Director, and the School Library System Coordinators in New York City initially developed and shared a detailed Inquiry-Based Curriculum of library and information skills for 21st Century Learners. She shared her work with others, and as a result, Capital Region BOCES School Library System, in conjunction with other regional BOCES, provided training documentation for school librarians and teachers. As a result of Barbara Stripling’s work and the documentation, training for hundreds of librarians and teachers has been offered by School Library Systems in the last eight years. This led Questar III to provide an annual Inquiry Forum that invited librarian/teacher teams and their administrators from all regional BOCES to present on the success they had with students when using Inquiry-Based Curriculum, which in turn lead to more training with very positive results in our region and throughout the state.
Barbara Stripling and her team continued their work by creating an Information Fluency Continuum guide that included inquiry and information fluency skills, as well as benchmark assessments for those skills at each grade level. When the Common Core State Standards were adopted, the New York City team went to work again, aligning each of the standards with the skills needed to meet those standards. The New York City School Library System has been extremely generous in sharing all of their work with the rest of the state. The Information Fluency Continuum has recently been revised and re-branded and is now the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum. School Library Councils across the state have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, this Empire State IFC as the standards for our school librarians. Much of this work has been funded by the state aid for our library systems and/or by LSTA grant funding. None of these things could have happened without cooperation, sharing, and state funding.
School Library Systems have proven the power of consortium purchasing. In the past few years, we’ve had a committee that has worked diligently on getting all database purchases from almost all BOCES into a centralized system that offers information and pricing from vendors. By working with someone who negotiates pricing for all of us, prices for a large number of popular databases used in our libraries has been significantly reduced. This has enabled many of our schools to either save hundreds of dollars or, in some cases, be able to purchase additional databases with money that has been saved, giving their students more resources over and above the NOVEL databases. This 2012-2013 school year, School Library Systems have reported approximately $4.5 million dollars in database purchases through this consortium, and we are working on adding more vendors for price reductions. In the Capital Region, all of our districts who purchase databases come through us because of the savings we can offer them through this consortium pricing. Purchasing of databases through BOCES has recently been opened up to other library systems; if they come into the consortium as well, pricing can be reduced even further.
Other examples of using state aid and grants are in the area of professional development for school librarians. Last summer, three BOCES School Library Systems combined to provide a comprehensive, 3-day training on the new Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) for school librarians. Held here in the Capital Region, school librarians and SLS Directors from across the state came for the training. At the end of the three days, and continuing still, is the collection of SLOs on the School Library System Association website for all librarians to share and use as needed. We are currently in the process of going through all of the SLOs to find exemplary samples for our own website, and to share on the Engage NY website.
This is the second year that School Library Systems are offering an online “Cool Tools for Schools” professional development training that includes lessons and sharing out of technology tools such as blogs and wikis, online communities and social media, photo sharing, and other skills that can be used to teach students and teachers to become savvy users of 21st century technology. Through this program eight BOCES School Library Systems have provided professional development training for over 200 librarians and teachers, at no cost to them, in a way that they can learn on their own time and at their own pace.
As for more specific spending in individual School Library Systems, I can only speak for Capital Region, though I know similar things are being done across the state. We use state aid to purchase databases so that all of our schools have access at no cost. We currently offer TeachingBooks.net, a collection of essays, audio and video presentations on books and authors, and Noodle Tools, an online bibliography and note-taking database that helps students organize all of their notes for research. Most recently, we are offering Overdrive, a virtual library where students and teachers can “check out” e-books and audio books and download them on to almost any platform – computers, e-readers, i-pads, smart phones. In addition to our offering all of these products, we provide training at our site or in districts, and purchase marketing materials so librarians can share “how to” get access to all of these programs with their students and staff. For the last three summers we have sent any librarian who has applied to the School Librarian Leadership Conference sponsored by the New York Library Association’s Section of School Librarians and held at Cornell University. There librarians have been immersed in training on topics such as teacher evaluations, student learning objectives and, most recently, Common Core State Standards and the Information Fluency Continuum. We do a number of other things as well, but these are just a few examples.
I have spent almost my entire adult life in public service, first serving in the United States Navy, then in public education as a teacher, a school librarian and now as a School Library System Director. And I have to say in all honesty that the proudest moment in those 25 years was when a Holocaust survivor came to Queensbury High School where I was the librarian, and spoke to a group of students about her experience immigrating to America. She said she was in the grocery store, buying “those Little Golden Books” for her children, when a friend approached her and told her about this place where she could go and by signing up for a card, she could take out all the books she wanted for free. “For free?” she asked in amazement. And when she went there and got her card, and checked out books that otherwise would have cost her precious pennies, the only thing that she could say was “America – what a country!” Our democracy thrives because of educated citizens, and because we have these wonderful buildings we call libraries, where people can go and learn about anything they want. I believe it’s a small price to pay for giving everyone – our students included, and maybe especially – such a tremendous opportunity. Thank you.
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Written statement by Jean Ehnebuske, Resident, Town of Kent, Putnam County and former library trustee
Thank you, Chairman Reilly and committee members, for inviting oral and written testimony regarding how state funding effects the services public libraries are able to provide their communities. In my remarks, I'll primarily focus on what I've recently experienced and observed in public libraries in the region I've called home for the last ten years—Putnam County. Although I've served as a trustee on a local library board, and most recently on the Mid-Hudson Library System Board, I'm representing only myself today: an avid and unabashed library user and supporter.
As you probably know, Putnam County—approximately sixty miles north of New York City—is a
mostly-rural area blessed with open space and a multitude of reservoirs that are part of the watershed
for the metropolis. Putnam's area of 240 square miles makes it the third-smallest county in the state
outside of the five boroughs. Of the state's sixty-two counties, Putnam ranks just about in the middle in
regard to population—almost 100,000 residents. In spite of that sizable population, Putnam has no
institutions of higher learning and not one book store. For residents who seek information, culture or entertainment, our eight public libraries truly serve as the “universities of the streets.”
In Putnam, three out of every four residents have library cards, and statistics from all eight libraries show they use them. If people were not already library users, the challenging economic situation of the past several years has increasingly brought them in. Tight budgets have meant that more and more people are borrowing books, eBooks, and audio books instead of buying or renting them. When individuals or families want to see a movie, they check out a DVD instead of renting one or paying high prices at the multiplex. People are canceling magazine and newspaper subscriptions and reading their favorites at the library or via library databases instead. And attendance at programs for children, teens and adults continues to rise as people seek learning opportunities and free entertainment.
I've observed that computer stations and labs at our libraries are constantly busy. Those who have given up home access to the Internet to save a few dollars—or who never had home access in the first place —are using library computers for a variety of purposes. Many are looking for employment, investigating new careers, seeking networking opportunities, writing resumes, applying for jobs, practicing employment tests, accessing government-assistance programs, and researching job-training and educational opportunities. Lacking a county employment center, residents head to our libraries. There they find staff members who have been trained to help them find and use the resources—online and in print—that will improve their chances for re-entering the workforce. For these people— particularly now—the library is a necessity, not an amenity.
There's something intangible, too, that libraries offer those who have lost their jobs or are down on their luck. I'd characterize it as a sense of belonging. When a person has been cut from the payroll and is no longer expected to clock in or show up at the office, that individual has not only lost a job, but has also lost a community. Where does that person fit in any longer? Libraries create communities where everyone is welcome. While there is no pressure to converse with others or participate in any way, the opportunity to interact is always there. It has been said that during the Great Depression, libraries became such resources and refuges for the out-of-work that they were called “the bread lines of the spirit.” From what I've experienced, the same is true today. Libraries are truly the cozy living rooms and comfy front porches that draw in and shelter the residents of our little communities in Putnam.
Incredibly, at a time when more and more people have been turning to libraries, funding for libraries at the state level has been poor at best. Given that libraries are asked to provide the ever-increasing services New Yorkers need and deserve, Albany's record of deep and disproportionate cuts to library aid over the past several years is basically unacceptable. What other state entity has been asked to endure such extreme cuts? I'm aware that last year libraries received a 4% increase to match the increase given to schools, but that brought up funding only to 1994 levels. Is there any other state agency operating at last-century funding levels? Although the world has moved on, state funding for libraries seems to be stuck in the '90s.
I find it ironic that public libraries and public library systems—models for creating efficiencies through resource sharing, collaboration, and shared services—are not acknowledged for their successful cost-effective solutions by fair and ample funding from Albany. Instead, they're underfunded. Are you aware that for every dollar public library systems receive from Albany, local libraries receive roughly $13 dollars in services? Talk about more books for the buck! That's a remarkable return on investment. Without help from public library systems, local communities would find it cost prohibitive to provide the library services that systems help them afford. So when the state cuts funding to systems, local libraries suffer. If funding for systems is not substantially restored in the next budget, the eight libraries in Putnam will face difficult decisions regarding cutting essential services or increasing local taxes.
My hope is that the members of this committee won't allow this to happen. It's been said that where you stand depends on where you sit. If you haven't visited your own local library lately, do. Pull up a chair and just watch all that's going on for a half hour or so. If you have any doubts about how much your neighbors use and value their local library, I think your perspective will change with that experience.
While I am grateful for the little bump upward in library aid last year, it's simply not enough. I realize that lawmakers have many requests for increased funding from various constituencies across the state. Still, to ensure the continuance of the critical services public libraries provide to so many New Yorkers —particularly to the laid-off, the lost, and the least—I hope you will seriously consider funding public libraries and library systems at the level they actually deserve. Many thanks for your time.
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Honorable Committee Members:
At a time when public institutions feel hard put to find adequate financial resources for their programs, it is helpful to understand a bit of tax theory. I am a former university professor who later served for a decade with the Legislative Tax Study Commission before retirement in 1992. I have spent my time since preoccupied with economic thinking outside of mainstream discourse, a school mostly following the writing of Henry George. It has had a dramatic revival in the past two decades due first to the power of computers and available data, to the strength of the internet in bringing together its advocates worldwide, and to the collapse of current economic theory. Since working outside the confines of government, I regret to say, my success has been far greater than my efforts ever were within. I hope perhaps to broaden your thinking here.
If policy makers look in the right places, there is no shortage of potential revenue at all, and it can be had painlessly. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently put it well:
One of the general principles of taxation is that one should tax factors that are inelastic in supply, since there are no adverse supply side effects. Land does not disappear when it is taxed. Henry George, a great progressive of the late nineteenth century, argued, partly on this basis, for a land tax. It is ironic that rather than following this dictum, the United States has been doing just the opposite through its preferential treatment of capital gains.
But it is not just land that faces a low elasticity of supply. It is the case for other depletable natural resources. Subsidies might encourage the early discovery of some resource, but it does not increase the supply of the resource; that is largely a matter of nature. That is why it also makes sense, from an efficiency point of view, to tax natural resource rents at as close to 100% as possible.
In classical economics, which can be traced as far back as the writing of John Locke, but which is normally associated with Adam Smith, a central factor of production was called rent. As he noted, "Ground-rents and the ordinary rent of land are…the species of revenue which can best bear to have a peculiar tax imposed on them." This is because land, as well as almost all other resources of nature, has an inelastic supply. The more it is taxed, the more this otherwise frozen wealth is made liquid and thereby increases economic vitality. All the economic writing until the early 20th century gave substantial attention to rent, also sometimes called land rent or ground rent. With the rise of neoclassical economics, discussion of rent essentially dropped from textbooks, an interesting story by itself. But Stiglitz three decades ago, along with his late colleague at Columbia, Bill Vickrey (also a Nobel Laureate) showed that “there is a Pareto efficient allocation in which in each community, public goods expenditure equals land rents,” what is today known as the Henry George Theorem. I recently brought back a book on this matter myself, with an Afterward bringing things up to date. The truth is we’re just not looking for revenue in the right places.
What we should be doing is phasing out the destructive part of the property tax placed on improvements and shifting to a higher rate on land value. Now we have a tax analogous to a train with an engine on each end, each one negating the impact of the other. The land value is really a flow of rent that is otherwise capitalized in the market value of sites, thus removing social wealth that could otherwise circulate. Instead of untaxing property entirely, we should try to get rid of those taxes that are destructive in their impact. Not long ago Reihan Salam of the New America Foundation asked, “What if the problem isn’t the property tax at all but rather, well, all other taxes?” Those other taxes—mainly on income and sales—create a burden that economists call deadweight loss, an amount that is about a third of the amount collected and about a tenth of the total economy. Taxing land by its market value comports with all the textbook principles of sound tax theory. A land value tax is completely neutral, totally efficient, highly progressive, easily administered, reliably stable, simple to understand, and impossible to avoid.
The elimination of rent in neoclassical economics is a longer story, one that need not be repeated here. But if revenue streams tapped rent flow, there would be no dearth of finance for public programs, and our markets would be substantially enriched. A substantial body of literature is available to those that wish to tap it; indeed other nations, especially in the British Isles, are way ahead of the US in exploring these policy options.
I have testified before government bodies here and elsewhere over several years and am astonished at the lack of interest in these renewed ideas. Indeed I am preparing for a trip shortly to Asia where I will be talking with academics and public officials, as well as arranging a 2014 international conference in Seoul. I would be happy to talk with people here in Albany if there is interest. It’s surely true to say, one is never an expert in one’s own backyard.1. “Principles and Guidelines for Deficit Reduction,” The Roosevelt Institute, December 2, 2010, Working Paper No. 6.
3. Guerney Breckenfeld, “Higher Taxes that Promote Development,” Fortune Magazine, August 8, 1983, pp. 68-71.
4. Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Theory of Local Public Goods Twenty-Five Years After Tiebout: A Perspective. Working Paper, No 954, National Bureau of Economic Research, (August, 1982) p.17; William Vickrey. (1977). “The City as a Firm,” in Martin Feldstein and Robert Inman (ed). The Economics of Public Services. New York: MacMillan; Vickrey (1992). “Henry George, Economies of Scale, and Land Value Taxation,” a paper presented at a COPE meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Jan. 9, 1992, reprinted in Kenneth C. Wenzer (1999). (ed.). Land-Value Taxation: The Equitable and Efficient Source of Public Finance. Armonk, (New York: M.E. Sharpe; Richard J. Arnott and Joseph E Stiglitz, Aggregate Land Rents, Expenditure on Public Goods, and Optimal City Size. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 93: 4 (Nov. 1979): 469-500.
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