October 1999

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The Legislative Spot: Could We Have Done More?

By Kenneth Wilbur, NYSALB Trustee & Legislative Chair

October 1999 issue of Trustee

Was the recent state budget a good one for New York libraries? Basically, state funding for libraries remained at the same level as last year when Chapter 917 was fully enacted. The level of funding is $88.5 million. Could this be because libraries are not mandated by New York State and receive token support?

Speculation is that since Chapter 917 was finally fully funded last year, the same funding would be sufficient for this year, as once again, libraries are not on the mandated list. Every legislator is in favor of more funding for libraries, but the story that library advocates hear is that "there is just so much money to go around."

There is also the thought that libraries received a large amount of federal funds through the E-rate provision of the recent communications laws. Another view is that the STAR program that reduced local school taxes would allow local funding to be increased for libraries without increasing over all tax bills to residents.

Maybe the fault should be with the trustees whose basic responsibility is to hire a competent director and obtain funding for the library. Are we doing as much of the latter as we could? Do we wait for the other trustees to write the letters, make the phone calls, visit the legislator's offices and all of the other efforts to promote libraries?

This would be similar to the story we hear from the legislators who tell us they support our funding request, but the other group does not.

Just examine your commitment on your appointment or election to your library board. It is not enough to just attend meetings. You have to take a more active role in telling the library story to the people who control the funds. Be willing to write the letters, make the phone calls and visit the legislator's offices. Think about the impact that every one of the 7,000 library trustees in New York State could have.

As long as the percentage of trustees' participation remains the same -- so will the funding.

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