Kowlowitz only candidate for Voorheesville library board

– Photo from Alan Kowlowitz

Last man standing: Alan Kowlowitz was the only resident to return a petition with the required 25 signatures to be placed on the May 15 ballot for the Voorheesville Public Library Board of Trustees.

VOORHEESVILLE – The library’s board of trustees will have a new member after the May 15 election – but only Alan Kowlowitz will appear on the ballot, after he was the lone candidate to return a petition with at least 25 signatures.

Taunya Hannibal-Williams did not gather enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, while Trustee Clifford Erickson did not submit a petition.

Erickson has been on the board since 2013, when he ran a write-in campaign after no one filed a petition to get on the ballot .

His decision not to run again was personal, and, he said, that sometimes life gets in the way. Although he did have his petition ready to file, once he heard that there were qualified candidates who would stand for election, his decision to step back was made much easier.

Erickson said that he was most proud of the work he and the board did on the library’s budget, keeping it flat and under the tax cap for his entire tenure.

Gail Sacco, the library’s director, said that Erickson brought an understanding of people, technology, and business to the board. “He has been very mindful of community needs,” she said.

Kowlowitz has run before.

In 2016, he lost to then-trustee and current board vice president and treasurer, Bryan Richmond, 429 votes to 298.

Kowlowitz said that, as a trained historian, he tends to read works of non-fiction but said that his favorite fiction book is “The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andrić, a Yugoslav writer.

Kowlowitz is the past president of the Friends of the Library and currently serves as president of the New Scotland Historical Association.

He chose to run because of his background and because he believes that a strong library program is important for the community, calling it a “linchpin institution.”

He said that even in the internet age libraries are important.

“It has to perform the traditional functions that people expect, but also it should be a hub for access to information from other sources … like online,” he said.

He also said that the library plays an important role in literacy; not only the ability to read but also the ability to interpret information. “We live in an age with so much information, but some people don’t have the skills to absorb it,” he said.

Kowlowitz said that the present board has done a diligent job to keep costs down, but that he would like to see a programmatic budget, where the budget is tied to the services and programs that the library provides rather than the current model that is broken down by staff and fixed costs, he said.

“I think that is a better way to get a handle on how the money is being spent whether it is going into core programs,” he added.

As for the library itself and its physical upkeep, Kowlowitz said there is a delicate balance between the optimal solution for the library and what the community is willing to pay for, but also said that the board should never go over the tax-levy limit set by the state.

The proposed library budget for next year is about $1.18 million, up less than 1 percent from this year. The increase in the tax rate would be 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The library should identify “critical spaces” that could be addressed, he said, citing the building’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system as well as upgrades to the building’s flooring.  

There needs to be a lot of discussion about how to optimize the current space, he said, because the process of building a new library could take years.

Or not be undertaken at all.

In 2012, eighty-one percent of voters, a record turnout, resoundingly defeated a proposed $7.6 million project to build a new, bigger library, which at that time had been in the works for 10 years.

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