Barbara Fraterrigo, Guilderland library candidate

Barbara Fraterrigo

GUILDERLAND — Barbara Fraterrigo, the board’s longest serving member, believes, “It’s nice to have an old hand on the board, someone who knows the history.”

She has been on the board since the library had an elected board, helping with the move to make the free library into a public library, giving it the power to tax. Fraterrigo was first elected in 1988 and has been a trustee ever since.

“This is the first time in a long time we have had a race,” she said. “It’s great,” Fraterrigo added of having so many candidates run for the board.

Of her own service, she said, “It’s a labor of love. I’ve always valued education. The library and the school district are my heart and soul.”

Fraterrigo is also the longest-serving member of the Guilderland School Board and is currently its president.

She grew up in Massachusetts, and graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston with a major in chemistry and biology and a minor in teaching. She taught pre-med students embryology at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In 1972, she and her husband, Philip, a doctor, moved to Guilderland where they raised their five children, now grown. Fraterrigo has worked in her husband’s office.

Her all-time favorite book is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. “It captured the whole era and brought forth a lot of discussion,” Fraterrigo said.

She said of accomplishments during her years on the board, “We’ve developed a good relationship with our staff. We have valued community input and tried to put forth programs that meet the needs of the community.”

Fraterrigo said she is particularly proud of the children’s section, which instills an early love of learning, and of the highly trained staff, including three librarians with health certification.

Asked about her goals for the upcoming term, Fraterrigo said, “We have to find some way to maintain the building. The referendum was meant to help with the roof and heating system. This year, we put aside $90,000 as a capital improvement line but that won’t come close to all we need to do.”

She said the rugs are worn, the furniture is looking “ratty,” but, more importantly, pieces of the heating system are failing and the roof is past its warranty. She suggested a small capital referendum might meet these needs.

“I certainly do support the budget,” said Fraterrigo. “I would have liked a little more in the capital-improvement line. We balanced keeping that under the tax cap. We could have gone over with just the vote of the board. We chose not to. Keeping the faith of the community is important.”

The hope is to use the capital reserve fund to leverage grants. “Our folks have done a phenomenal job reaching out to apply for grants,” she said, citing the funds that paid for the re-paved parking lot and the book drop.

“We’ve gotten a number of arts grants and brought in great people,” said Fraterrigo, concluding, “We’ve pinched every penny.”

On the role of the library in the Internet age, Fraterrigo said, “Basically, we’re the information source for the community. Tons of people either don’t have a computer or don’t know how to address world issues using the computer. Our staff has developed links, subscribing to databases an average household wouldn’t have access to,” she said, giving examples of genealogy sources and Consumer Reports.

She also said, “If you want something, the staff will bend over backwards and find it for you,” sometimes getting materials from as far away as Georgia or the Dakotas.

On future plans for the library, Fraterrigo said, “We really have to do a great deal of outreach to the community to see their needs.”

She said lack of space is a problem and would like to consider little expansions to reduce cramping. “The children’s area is really, really small,” said Fraterrigo. “Bumping out the wall would give you more room there.”

Fraterrigo also said, “Foot traffic is down because of people’s busy lives…We have to adapt to the times.”

She went on, “We have great music programs, visiting authors, health lectures. We also have hidden services,” she said of little-known programs such as dropping off books to the homebound, or running programs in nursing homes, or hosting story times for children on the autism spectrum, or providing programs for home-schooled children.

“Our library staff reaches out to every segment of the community who wants it,” said Fraterrigo. “The staff is fantastic. They’re on the front lines, listening to the patrons and bringing ideas to the director and trustees.”

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