State lawmakers wisely reversed one proposal made by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the budget passed last week.
The governor had recommended cutting $4 million in funding for public libraries throughout the state. This would have been a 4.7 percent reduction from last years library budget of $85.6 million.
But legislators recognize the value of libraries in their home districts and rejected any talk of cutting their revenue. In fact, they approved a $1 million increase for libraries in the fiscal year 2014-15 state budget.
This is great news as libraries remain popular institutions. The North Country Library System is made up of 65 public libraries in Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties, and they have been incredibly busy over the past decade.
According to data from the NCLS, patron visits have increased from 887,227 in 2001 (the year this information began to be collected) to 1,239,367 in 2012 (the most recent year for these statistics). Attendance at library programs has risen from 27,268 in 2001 to 36,615 in 2012. And computer use at these libraries has increased from 259,636 in 2001 to 286,214 in 2012.
The only area where there was a noticeable decrease was in the number of cardholders. This number declined from 116,825 in 2001 to 102,628 in 2012.
NCLS Director Stephen B. Bolton, however, said this decrease reflects the way data are being collected. Cardholders previously renewed their patron information sporadically or every few years, he said. But since the automation of the system, the data have been updated annually, Mr. Bolton said.
So what are New Yorkers getting for their $86.6 million? Quite a bit.
Public libraries provide access to the world through printed books, e-books, magazines, newspapers and the Internet. They also offer a variety of programming, particularly for children.
Libraries are the indispensable resources for information on cultures many miles away as well as our own communities. To see their funding increased is a sign that elected officials in Albany understand their importance to the numerous patrons who use them every day.
While this funding is crucial, it alone will not sustain all public libraries. Many have Friends of groups that supplement this revenue stream.
Lobbying our state representatives and senators to maintain adequate levels of funding is beneficial, but its not enough. Residents should support their local libraries by joining these affiliated organizations or participating in other fundraising activities. The next state budget go-around may not be so kind to this network of libraries, so theyll need our help through these alternative methods.