VPL board: Heckler challenges Moore

VOORHEESVILLE — As voters gear up for May 21, much of the focus has been on the school district’s budget problems and three-way race for board President Doreen Saia’s seat. The Voorheesville Public Library, conversely, will be asking voters to approve a fourth straight nearly flat budget of $1.27 million. However, voters will also be asked to weigh in on an infrequent occurrence: a contested library-trustee election.

Incumbent Lance Moore is seeking his second five-year term, challenged by Belinda Heckler, a 15-year Voorheesville resident.

In addition to being asked about their relevant background, their reasons for running, and their favorite book, the candidates were asked about these issues:

— Priorities: Should the library make decisions about which programs and activities to offer based on popularity — hypothetically, say, a well-attended how-to baking class — or should decisions be made on the educational value of a program or activity?

— Space: A 2012 plan to build a new, larger library for $7.6 million was soundly defeated by voters.

Does the library have enough space now to offer all of the services and activities that patrons want or is it limited by space constraints? Should space be added? Why or why not?

— Library’s role: When the internet first became available to the general public, there were waiting lists to use the library’s computers. Today, however, nearly everyone has access to the internet from home or a cell phone, and thereby has access to all of the information that traditionally a library would provide.

What is the library’s role in today’s world?

 

Belinda Heckler

Belinda Heckler said that the reason she is running is “pretty straightforward.” As she looks around the area, she can’t help but see more homes being built.

“We have a wonderful public library,” she said, and as those new homes fill up with families and their children, “it has occurred to me that I would really like the quality of our programs to continue,” so that those new residents will be able to take advantage of all the library has to offer.

“I’m just so very impressed with how our little library manages to provide all the services that they do for the kids,” Heckler said, listing as examples, the summer reading program, grade-level book clubs, various seasonal activities, and a summer volunteer program for teenagers that allows them to earn credit hours toward graduation.

Heckler has lived in Voorheesville for 15 years. She has a son in third grade and a daughter in seventh grade. “We participate in many of the wonderful programs that are hosted by our library,” she said. Heckler works as a lobbyist for the New York State School Boards Association, pointing out that her job is to advocate for public schools.

It’s her work as an advocate, she said, that will help her as a board member.

As someone whose job it is to talk all day to state-level legislators and members of the United States House of Representatives, Heckler said that she has “the ability to get to the root of an issue.” She then works to solve the problem, she said, by finding which resources are available as well as which ones are not. Once identified, she said, she will set about accessing the available resources.

If the library should make its decisions about which programs and activities to offer based on popularity or educational value, Heckler said, “I don’t see any harm in being able to offer both of those things to the community.”

Libraries have had to adapt to accommodate broader interests, she said, while, yes, it’s a great place to borrow a hardcover book, the library is also the perfect place to accommodate a book club that holds discussions about the book.

As for Heckler, she said that her favorite book, or books, are the “Harry Potter” series. “I do prefer fiction to nonfiction,” she said. “I have a very busy life, talking and dealing with the realities of the legislature — all the time. So I like a little light reading.”

Currently, as someone whose children frequently attend library programs and activities, Heckler said that there aren’t many space constraints. “We have been more than adequately served,” she said, but added, “I do see that it’s going to become an issue,” reiterating her point about the population growth that could come when new homes come online.   

On expanding the library, Heckler said, “I don’t know that we’re ready to have that conversation right now. But it is something we have to think about in the future because, I think, in five years, we’ll be in a very different place than we are right now.”

As for the library’s role in today’s world, Heckler said that, like schools, libraries are “the center of your community.” Libraries offer almost anyone the opportunity to have access to information, she said, which is no small thing.

As someone who advocates for public schools, Heckler knows that, statewide, there are still a lot of children who don’t have home-access to an iPad or personal computer and, as you get into the more rural parts of the state, broadband access continues to be a major problem. “We’re constantly talking to the governor’s office about the lack of broadband,” she said; these are things that the library offers.

 

Lance Moore

A trustee for the past five years, Lance Moore said he standing for re-election because he enjoys the job and wants to continue to work with the board and the library’s new “innovative” director to help implement some of her ideas. In addition, he said that he wants to continue helping maintain the fiscal discipline that has led to four straight flat library budgets.

For Moore, the library is also a family affair; his mother was a librarian at the University of Albany and his two daughters worked as pages at the Voorheesville Public Library, he said.

As for the relevant background that he brings to the board, Moore said that, as a builder, he brings a business acumen that focuses intently on controlling costs. And he added that for the 40 years he and his family have lived in the area, they had been involved with the library in one way or another.

When it comes to offering a program or activity that is either educational or popular, Moore said that it is not an either/or decision. There is an element of learning in most activities the library offers. He said that, a baking class, while fun, also teaches a person a skill.  

He also pointed to the library’s “Seed Library,” where a patron can learn about what they are going to plant while still having the enjoyable activity of gardening.

The library has space constraints, Moore said, and one reason for that is, because it was built on a concrete slab, there is no basement. But he added that the library has done a good job using the space it has. “Especially with the Pre-K program,” he said, parents “can’t find a parking spot.”

Moore also pointed out that the proposal for a $7.6 million library came at the tail end of the Great Recession, so few voters may have been inclined to raise their own taxes. The problem now is that there is the tax cap, he said, so the library has to learn to live with even greater fiscal constraints.

When asked if he’d support a building addition, Moore said that, maybe, he’d support a “small one,” but added that an addition would be based on need, which would be determined by what the board is hearing from the community, library staff, and its director.

As for the library’s role in today’s world, Moore said that he was “a fan and advocate of printed materials,” and said that a lot of the library’s patrons are as well.

As someone who is in the library four to five times a week, Moore said that he sees its computers being used constantly, whether it’s by someone who lives in a place without broadband access or older patrons who, rather than pay an exorbitant fee to Spectrum, can come use the library’s internet for free. “Wouldn’t you avail yourself [of free internet], especially if you’re a taxpayer?” Moore asked.

While he didn’t name a specific favorite book, Moore did offer his favorite type of literature: fiction.  

“I read a lot of fiction,” Moore said, adding that he also reads a lot of construction-related trade manuals for his work. In addition to his work as a contractor, Moore is also Altamont’s building inspector.

Moore prefers fiction, he said, because, as someone who is constantly working, reading fiction is his entertainment. Reading fiction, Moore said, stimulates his imagination and allows his mind to wander. ​

More New Scotland News

  • On Election Night, three of the four incumbent New Scotland Democrats facing Republican challengers were still facing uncertain futures as a number of absentee ballots had yet to be counted. But the Democrats breathed a collective sigh of relief on Nov. 17 after the release of the absentee-ballot counts. However, the recanvass results recently released by the Albany County Board of Elections should give Democrats pause as they show that Republicans — there are six for every 10 Democrats in town — are becoming more competitive.

  • During the November village board meeting, Steve Schreiber, chairman of the grassroots Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville, voiced concern with how the project has stalled since an August update.

  • During a recent public hearing on the village’s proposed local law that would have Voorheesville opt out of both retail sales of marijuana and on-site consumption, the board of trustees heard very little in the way of agreement for its proposal. 

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