For weeks, we’ve been celebrating Library Lovers’ Month and sharing some of the many reasons to love the library. I know that so many of you in our community are willing to show your appreciation for the library. Just look at the incredible heart you created, filled with your gratitude for the LPL; and it’s still growing!
If you’ve caught the library love bug, it’s time to show your appreciation in a bigger way.
I know it’s a little gauche to discuss money, but here’s the truth: Libraries need money! We cannot provide all of the services, materials, and programs we want–and you need–at the highest level of quality without adequate aid from the state government. You might not be aware that Governor Cuomo has proposed a $4M cut in general state aid for libraries and a $5M cut in state aid for library construction. These cuts would mean that library funding is falling significantly short of the amount authorized in State Education Law:
New York State Education Law requires Library Aid for FY 2017-2018 to be $102.6M. Total state funding in the FY2016-17 enacted budget was $95.6M, placing library aid at 2006 funding levels. More than $111M in statutory State Library Aid has been withheld since FY2007-2008.” – Capital District Library Council
The sad fact is that state aid to libraries equals only 1/10th of 1% of the State’s spending, a ridiculously low amount for community institutions that provide so much for so many. The British writer Caitlin Moran has said of libraries, “A library in the middle of the community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead.” Consider this statement and ask yourself if the amount of aid New York State libraries receive is in proportion to their importance. If the answer is no, then please remember that you can make a difference!
Each year, the New York Library Association (NYLA) organizes Library Advocacy Day. Library supporters head to Albany to speak with legislators and urge lawmakers to provide libraries with greater resources. Here in Nassau, dozens of my colleagues make the trip, spending the long day fighting the good fight for the libraries we love. And let me tell you something: You don’t want to mess with a large group of fired up librarians!
Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, yeah, yeah, you really expect me to drive to Albany to talk about libraries?! Well, if you are in the area, why not stop by the Legislative Office Building? In fact, NYLA has a useful list of advocacy tools, including a wealth of statistics regarding library aid that will not only help make your case, but also give you some personal background on these issues, regardless of whether you’re an official “advocate” or an interested citizen.
But wait, you don’t have to make the trek to Albany in order to make a difference! Contact your Senators or Assembly Representatives and let them know that you want to see more done on behalf of public libraries. Tell them what the library means to you and (hopefully) the library will mean more to them. To help you out, the public desks here at the LPL have pre-written letters that we will be sending to our representatives; all you need to do is include your name, address, email, and signature. We’ve done all the work for you! If you’ve ever checked out a book, brought your child to a storytime, logged into Ancestry or Tutor.com, please consider paying it forward on behalf of the library.
If I have not yet convinced you, please read this speech from Neil Gaiman. He’s a library advocate and a much better writer than I am.