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State slashes library funds

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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While schools were spared midyear cuts during the latest state deficit reduction efforts last week, libraries will see a roughly 12 percent reduction in remaining state funding — and library officials said they are worried it will affect services.


North Country Library System Director Stephen B. Bolton said the system, which serves 63 libraries in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties, will lose about $40,000 through the latest cuts.


"This is going to eat into our core services, there's no way around it at this point," Mr. Bolton said. "Now we're really down to our core services... and to continue those services over a 6,200-mile area could be really difficult."


Mr. Bolton said the most recent cuts come on top of about 11 percent in state-aid reductions over the past year that have already strained library budgets.


For the two co-central libraries, Ogdensburg Public Library and Watertown's Flower Memorial Library, this reduction means less money for materials such as books and DVDs. It also means a potential loss of loaning and educational capabilities. As central libraries, the two are the major lenders for the system.


"This is going to become a major topic of concern and I'll have to look at where we can tighten our belts further or what cuts need to be made," Ogdensburg Library Director Wayne L. Miller said. "There's only so many ways you can divide up a shrinking pie."


Mr. Miller said the library will lose about $7,000 from the cuts, and Flower Memorial Library Director Barbara J. Wheeler said she is expecting her facility to lose about $15,000. She said state aid accounts for about 10 percent of Flower Memorial's $1.2 million operating budget.


"We're already buying less than we used to be able to, and now boom, we've been cut again," she said. "It's unfair that libraries are suffering these deep cuts when the other parts of the education budget do not."


St. Lawrence-Lewis School Library System Director Allison S. Wheeler said her district will lose more than $5,500, which will impact book deliveries and cataloging and consulting services for school librarians.


"It doesn't sound like much money, but when your budget is $150,000 overall, it's a good piece of it," she said.


The cuts will total about $4.1 million throughout the state, said New York Library Association Executive Director Michael J. Borges. He said that during the past 20 months, the state library budget has been cut by $25 million.


Mr. Borges said he was most upset that school aid was left unharmed while cuts to libraries were increased 2 percent more than Gov. David A. Paterson's original proposal.


"Ultimately, the Legislature was not willing to accept reductions to certain areas, particularly school and Medicaid," said Matthew C. Anderson, state Division of Budget spokesman. "These are certainly worthy programs, but unfortunately at this time the state is facing substantial reduction in revenue, and adjustments have to be made."

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