Libraries have long sought to promote the concept of information literacy

To the Editor:

Recently, a local television station published an opinion segment critical of the money that the Guilderland Public Library spends to inform the citizens we serve about the library’s programs, services, and collections.

The station was critical of the fact that the GPL sends out a quarterly newsletter, a monthly postcard, and occasional press releases in paper form, as if these practices were somehow inherently wasteful. The segment then suggests that all such communication could take place via e-mail and social networking.

While the library has an e-mail distribution list, and presences on Facebook and Twitter, we, like many organizations, have found it most effective to reach out to all members of the community via means with which they are comfortable.

There are many members of this community who do not have computers and Internet access, and/or prefer reading printed materials.  A recent analysis of our spending — all a matter of public record — indicates that we currently spend 53 cents per year per citizen to keep Guilderland residents informed.

The library strives to maximize the efficient use of tax dollars in all respects, and, in fact, has been working this year to further reduce the money we spend on paper communication.  Ordinarily, we are happy to be scrutinized, even criticized by the media — it can have the effect of making us better.  However, the segment in question was not only extremely biased against the library — and by extension all libraries and public entities, but it contained an egregious inaccuracy that we prefer not to ignore. 

The station claimed that because they “brought this issue to light, the library says they are now looking at more ways to save money,” and then takes credit for a cost-saving idea that we thought of back in January, and have recently implemented.  In brief, we have eliminated eight monthly postcard mailings, thereby saving over $10,000 per year in printing, mail sorting, and postage costs. 

The savings is being wisely invested in a capital reserve fund to address maintenance issues in our beautiful, 22-year-old building, which is beginning to show its age in ways we will need to address over the coming years. 

The entire news segment is an example of biased journalism, and could easily be used as a case study to help teach the concept of information literacy, in which students, consumers, and citizens are urged to look at the news with a critical eye, to analyze how it reflects the values of its authors while often masquerading as objective news.  In other words, take it with a grain of salt.  Libraries have long sought to promote the concept of information literacy.

We will continue to look for innovative ways to reduce our spending while improving our programs, collections and services, and we welcome ideas from the public at any time.  Thank you.

Christopher R. Aldrich, Board President
Tim Wiles, Director
Guilderland Public Library

Editor’s note: See related “to the editor” column.

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