Restore state library aid to level mandated by law

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and to the members of the New York State Senate and Assembly. 

There is a public-service organization in every community in this state that returns $7 in service for every dollar it receives, and that is your local library.   

The governor’s goal of getting local governments and taxing authorities to share services is admirable, yet the executive budget presented cuts of $4 million in aid to libraries, again threatening the viability of the very library systems that turn the state’s 752 public libraries and their 314 branches into cooperative organizations that save money through shared purchasing and resourcing. 

The Upper Hudson Library System, serving the Guilderland Public Library and 28 other public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer counties, saves every community thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Were it not for these systems, each library would be a stand-alone organization, having to purchase products and services at enormous expense just to maintain current levels of public service. This would shift a massive burden to local taxpayers. 

Assemblyman John MacDonald was recently quoted as saying that the libraries’ request “is a restoration of the $4 million cut in this year's proposed budget and a movement to increase back to the 2009 numbers of $102 million of which we are still lagging behind.

“Libraries are taking on a much larger role in society for education and employment let alone the many community events and programs conducted. I am pleased to be a signatory to the increased funding support letter in the Assembly and am working towards its increase going forward!” 

Libraries are essential to vibrant, well-informed communities.  They serve people of all ages and income levels; they help people find jobs, promote life-long learning, foster children’s love of reading, serve as research and technology hubs, and are quite often — as is the case with the Guilderland Public Library — the de facto cultural center of their communities.

Helping all these libraries work synergistically to multiply value on every tax dollar are the library systems, the very organizations your budget cuts imperil. 

“No other state-funded service serves so many people for so few dollars,” said New York Library Association Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen at the recent joint budget hearing. “Even if fully funded to $102 million, library aid would amount to less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the New York State budget, and yet the libraries and library systems that this funding supports serve more than 14 million New Yorkers.”  

We urge you in the strongest terms to not only restore the monies you’ve cut, but also work towards fully funding libraries at the $102 million level mandated by the New York State Education Law. 

Christopher Aldrich, president
Guilderland Public Library
Board of Trustees