Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For New Yorkers: Members of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries visit state legislators ("Tin Cup Tuesday")

NYS Capitol by Albany_Tim in FlickrToday I made my second trip to Albany as a member of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries in order to visit NY State Legislators. Members of the Council along with Regent James Dawson, State Librarian Bernard Margolis, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education Jeffrey W. Cannell, and others from the State Library and Department of Education visited 17 members of the Assembly and State Senate. I met with:
During one of the meetings, someone used the phrase "Tin Cup Tuesday" to describe lobby day. Indeed many groups come to Albany on Tuesdays to meet with members of the legislature in order to advocate for their causes. Given the economic crisis, many groups are descending on Albany in hopes of keeping their funding.

In our meetings, we talked about the 18% proposed cut to library funding and the negative impact it will have on public libraries, public library systems, school libraries, etc. Because of the way the cut will implemented, some organizations may actually have a 30% cut in state funding. An 18 - 30% cut in funding will be devastating and it is anticipated that some library organizations will not survive.

We heard that our representatives want to restore funding to libraries but, with limited funds, they are unsure where the money will come from. Several mentioned the stimulus package and are hoping that there is flexibility in that package that would allow funds to flow to libraries in some manner. No one, though, had seen the details of the package and so what we heard was speculation.

The good news is that everyone understands that the importance of libraries, especially in this economy. Libraries are a haven for those whose have limited funds. These people are using libraries for locating information, borrowing materials for education and entertainment, accessing the Internet, and submitting job applications (which often need to be done online now). Libraries are busier than ever, so any decrease in funding seems inappropriate.

It was said that libraries are places of optimism. If libraries fail, what public institution will provide the optimism and hope that people need?

One person impressed upon us that they -- our legislators -- need to hear from the users of our libraries. Those people need to email, call, or visit members of the Assembly and Senate and tell them how important libraries are, and ask for full funding to be restored. The voices of our users must be loud, if not deafening. And their voices need to be heard soon.

New 5 dollar bill from Travelin LibrarianIn addition, the funding stream for the State Library, Museum and Archive has been decimated, and we talked about how that could be rectified. Currently, the majority of funding comes from fees collected on specific recordings and filings done through county clerks (e.g., deeds). The Regents will be proposing the fee can be increased from $15/filing to $22.50.

On March 10, hundreds of library workers, librarians and library supporters will descend on Albany. By then, the legislators should know much more about the stimulus package. Let's hope that the message delivered by the legislators on March 10 is that library funding will be restored.

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