Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Advocating for libraries within New York State

In years past, a group of New Yorkers have gone to the Legislative Office Building in Albany during February to advocate for libraries.  Our visit was prior to NYLA's Lobby Day and offered small group conversations with state senators and assemblypeople.  This year, we are not gathering in person in Albany and are instead reaching out individually to our representatives, some of whom are on key committees that impact libraries.  This morning, I sent of letters to Senator John DeFrancisco - chair of the Senate Finance Committee - and Assemblyman Samuel Roberts - member of the Assembly's Committee on Libraries and Education Technology.  Part of the text of my letter is at the end of this blog post.

As I look at the web sites for my representatives and read committee reports, I was reminded that the status quo is to say that things are good.  Yes, we've had to cut library funding, but there is always something that can be pointed to as good news.  However, we need to keep reminding our legislators that the news about libraries needs to be much better.  This is no time to rest on tired laurels.  Now is the time to equip our libraries to meet the needs of their community members.  

...I am writing to encourage you to seek increased funding for libraries across New York State.  Library aid is currently below 1994 levels.  At 2010 levels, the cost of funding would be approximately $4.34 for each NYS resident.  Could you work with the Committee and the rest of the Assembly to restore funding to that level (and ideally higher)?

As New Yorkers, we boast about having six of the 40 largest U.S. libraries within the state.  We proudly point to New York Public Library and Queens Library for the resources that they house and the services that they offer.  We are grateful that New York has 7,000 academic, public, school and special libraries.  Yet, we ignore that only a public library in an area with population over 7,500 must have a library director who holds a master degree in library science.  The current funding for libraries does nothing to increase the number of degreed librarians in our public libraries or to help them increase the services on which a growing number of New Yorkers rely.  Those services include:

·         Broadband Internet access for those with no or limited Internet access at home or on their mobile devices for completing homework, job applications, and personal research.
·         Information and digital literacy training for New Yorkers of all ages including those with limited English language skills and education.
·         Books, audio books, ebooks, and other materials for ongoing learning as well as recreation.

As a New York State resident and director of Syracuse University’s Library and Information Science Program (part of its School of Information Studies), my desire is that all of our libraries be the best in the nation. We should be able to walk into the Bristol Public Library (Ontario County) and find the same resources as libraries in Salina, and that those would be on par with New York Public Library.  With your help...we can make that dream a reality by 2020.

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