By Joy Testa Cinquino, Assistant Deputy Director, Development & Communications Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System
Spring 2013 issue of Trustee
The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, 176 years in the making, is one of the oldest library systems in the country. Thirty-seven libraries strong, we have the honor and privilege of stewarding one of the most remarkable collections of any American library. The downtown Central Library houses Mark Twain’s original manuscript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a true treasure along with Shakespeare folios; the one-of-a-kind Milestones of Science collection; Audubon’s Birds of America; significant collections of Bibles, illuminated manuscripts, historic autographs, and rare anti-slavery material; maps and musical scores; scrapbooks on Buffalo history; genealogy, and first editions of great literature.
Last year was a tremendously busy year for the Library System. Despite ongoing fiscal challenges and the fact that libraries were open 98 less hours weekly compared to 2010, many of our annual statistics rose.
Circulation was 8.2 million – up 1.2%, computer sessions reached 857,000 up by 1.8%, and our presence on social media expanded. You can “friend” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, Flicker, and Pinterest.
As we all know, Libraries are changing.
Last fall, we advocated for, and received $300,000 in restoration funding from Erie County, our primary funder. 10,000 “Turn the Lights Back On” postcards were sent by community members on our behalf to local elected officials.
We are proud of fundraising efforts – $258,000 was raised through various campaigns including “Bucks for Books,” online auctions, and special events. In 2012 for every $1 received in public funding, our libraries provided $6.56 back in services.
For the past several years, the Library System Board and Administration have been working with the Association of Contracting Libraries (ACT) Trustees toward the creation of a Special Library District – a long-term solution to the unstable funding challenges we have been faced with in the past and expect again whenever the economy is in flux. The development of a new governance structure will replace a complicated, unsustainable structure created in the 1950s when Erie County’s three library entities merged to create today’s Library System.
Presently, there are 23 separate Boards of Trustees setting policy and providing financial oversight for the 37 different libraries. These trustees are appointed by their local municipalities. Becoming a Special Legislative District Public Library means these separate Boards, comprised of over 130 individuals, would become one publicly elected board of 11 trustees.
We are not alone in working to change the funding model. Forty-seven libraries in New York have created Special Library Districts. At this writing, our public vote is expected in November 2014. Our goal is to not just maintain the present level of programs and services but to implement a service plan to address and meet the on-going need for library services throughout Erie County.
With dedicated trustees, conscientious and talented staff and many residents who value everything that libraries contribute to the vitality of this community, the possibilities are limitless for Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries. For more information visit: www.BuffaloLib.org.