Monday, November 10, 2008

For New Yorkers: Notes from NYLA legislative & library leaders, and Commissioner Mills

NYLA session on Nov. 7On Friday, I was able to attend two events at the New York Library Association annual conference where the future of library funding in New York State was discussed. The speakers were:
  • Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, District 88 and Chair, Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology
  • Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro, District 103 (corrected 11/12/2008)
  • Assemblyman Robert Reilly, District 109
  • Mark Leinung, Governor's Assistant Secretary for Education
  • Richard Strauss, President, New York State Association of Library Boards
  • Kathy Miller, Chair, NYLA Legislative Committee
  • Regent James C. Dawson
  • Jeffry Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education and Interim State Librarian
  • Richard P. Mills, President of The University of the State of New York (USNY) and Commissioner of Education (Commissioner Mills has announced that he will step down from his position in June 2009.)
Introduced was Bernard A. Margolis who will assume the position of New York State Librarian in January 2009. Among the 100+ people in the audience were staff from the State Library, representatives of various library consortia, and members of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries (Gerald Nichols, Sara Kelly Johns and myself).

Notes below are grouped by speaker and are not a transcript. Some are just sound-bites.

  • 20% of the State's yearly income comes from taxes paid by Wall Street (business and personal taxes, etc.)
  • One-third of children in NYS do not receive a high school diploma.
  • Just getting more money for libraries doesn't solve the (fiscal) crisis that is occurring.
  • Need consolidation of services.
  • Need to straighten out structures.
  • We tend to cut services, but don't fix bureaucracies.
  • We need to work our way out (of this mess), not cut our way out.
  • A strong public library is a part of a strong democratic society.
  • Our most precious commodity is information.
  • When Wall Street sneezes, NYS get a cold. NYS is getting pneumonia.
  • 160,000 people may loss their jobs in the state. 6.5% unemployment rate.
  • Deficit is $47 billion in four years and is the largest in the State's history.
  • There is a 35% gap in the general fund used by NYS.
  • As the state looks at what to cut, nothing is sacred.
  • A library is an economic engine in the community.
  • Library trustees must unit to sustain and improve library funding across NYS. Need consistent and stable funding.
  • State needs to provide trustee training. Should be mandatory for all trustees in NYS. They are trying to make this a law.
  • Across NYS, library systems are providing Internet access and continued learning through the library for unaffiliated people.
  • Libraries are part of the education infrastructure.
  • Libraries are the poster child for efficiency.
  • Librarians are forceful, knowledgeable and polite. Librarians need to be less polite as they ask for funding.
  • Libraries are a place for people to improve their quality of life.
  • Need to think outside the box in regards to advocacy.
  • Need to get users involved in our advocacy efforts and create a bigger movement.
  • Need to tell legislators what is really happening in our libraries.
  • Need to compete against the other interest groups.
From left - Jeffrey Cannell, James Dawson and Richard MillsCannell:
  • In talking about the budget, he said "everyone needs to get their allowance."
  • Within the budget discussion, member items are also being discussed.
  • This crisis is a change to learn how to be more nimble.
  • Need less regulation.
  • Important to get to fundamentals.
  • "I cannot live without books" - Thomas Jefferson. Mills then modified it to say, "I cannot live as a free person without books."
  • "A library is the most democratic of all institutions."
  • "The reach of libraries is vastly greater" now.
  • "A library is where people go to learn the language."
  • Libraries...
    • Lost 2% in the last budget
    • Lost 3.35% in operating funds (early this year)
    • Lost an additional 7% in July in operating funds (clarified: 11/12/2008)
    • Have lost $874,000 this year due to state funding cuts
  • Governor wants to cut another $2 billion from the budget this month.
  • Cultural Education's income (day-to-day sustaining budget) is primarily from various fees (e.g., real estate transactions). It also receives some federal money. The fees need to increase in order to sustains the Department (from $15/transaction to $22.50). Cultural Education includes the State Library, State Archives and State Museum. (clarified: 11/12/2008)
  • Advocacy needs to be local and regional.
  • Advocacy needs to be fact-based.
  • We need to get legislators into our libraries, so they can see what is happening there.
  • All cultural institutions in the State are under the University of the State of New York (USNY).
  • "Everyone needs resources. What value do we add?"
  • 1.5 million children have been in free literacy programs.
  • The average book in a school library in NYS is 21-25 years old. The amount spent on library resources for pupils needs to increase from $.625 to $10,00 per student.
  • A family without books cannot educate its children without a library.
  • The Regents are working to raise education standards, graduation standards, and graduation rates.
Audience Member:
  • Libraries are an economic force in the community. Libraries hire local people and services.
  • Librarians have master degrees. Why not use libraries and librarians more in the State as resources to get things done? Libraries are not seen as partners. They are not integrated into other State activities.
Audience Member:
  • Libraries are not free, but they provide free access.
  • Should be mandatory to have librarians in every school.
  • Libraries need "just a little bit of money."
Audience Member:
  • Should use library school students to help with advocacy efforts.
Audience Member:
  • "We're not far from closing the doors" on our libraries.
Audience Member:
  • Cutting libraries is not going to save the budget.
  • Think about the future.
  • Libraries are a life-line.
I believe that I noted all of the figures mentioned correctly. If I did not, I hope people will leave comments to correct me. (And let me know of other mistakes too! This is important stuff and worth getting correct.)

Thanks to Sara Kelly Johns for allowing me to use her photos.

Corrections and clarifications made on 11/12/2008.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jill, thanks for such a thorough review. I think everyone knows libraries are valuable. This panel seems to have spent a lot of time preaching to the choir. The fact remains that NY libraries are going to have funding cut, just like every area of the budget. What can you expect when there's a $40 billion shortfall? I would have liked to have seen from this panel an honest assessment as to what this inevitable funding cut will mean to libraries in NY.