April 2000

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

Beyond Albany...

By Rebekkah Smith, Development Associate, Mid-Hudson Library System and List Manager of the ATM-FUNDRAISING Listserv

April 2000 issue of Trustee

"The estimated need for public library construction is almost $800 million while the state currently spends $800,000 annually on library construction."- Regents Chancellor Carl Hayden

Mr. Hayden's quote, taken from a February press release, refers to the Board of Regents proposition that the state invest $90 million in New York State's public libraries for modernization over five years. This is not the first year that the Regents Commission or the New York Library Association has put forth a plan to increase the amount of construction money budgeted for New York's public libraries, and it won't be the last. This pattern highlights the need for a strategic capital improvement fundraising plan for your library that is not on hold - waiting for state funds to be awarded to your library or library system.

The current New York State allotment for public library building and renovation is not sufficient to meet even one of New York's 23 library system's needs. Sixty percent of New York's public library buildings are more than 50 years old, and another 20 percent are more than two decades old, according to a survey jointly conducted in 1998 by the New York State Library and the New York Library Association. The survey included 70 percent of New York's 1080 public libraries.

Problems identified include:

38 percent of public library buildings lack adequate electrical wiring to accommodate computer, Internet technology and other needs.

46 percent lack full accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

75 percent lack adequate space to accommodate the past 10 years growth of their collections at a time when information resources are growing exponentially.

At the same time, 73 percent of New York's total households use public libraries; the national average is 65 percent.

The quote from Regents Chancellor Carl Hayden reminds library advocates that an increase in state funds may not be on the immediate horizon. Such an increase will depend on many variables, including each of us advocating for library funds.

Can your library afford to wait for the passage of increased state funding for libraries? Public libraries need a strategic fundraising plan that does not rely on inconsistent or non-existent state budget increases or irregular run-off monies in the form of member items for libraries. (Relying on member item grants is a risky tactic, that won't translate into a stable funding source for libraries.)

Fundraising for your library should come in many forms - as many as your board can manage without spreading themselves too thin. Consider an annual campaign, an on-going book sale, applying for mini-grants and matching grants, hosting special events such as charity auctions, raffles, or even starting a "bucks for bricks" program. Assess your current fundraising plan. If your roof is leaking, you lack space for another computer, your operating hours are low or your budget is depleted before you start - come up with a new strategy.

Empower yourself and your board colleagues to find paths to better funding for your library.

Participate in library advocacy events ( NYLINE ). Stay abreast of current and pending legislation affecting libraries - locally, statewide and nationally.

Write, call, email or visit your local State Assemblyperson and State Senator.

Invite them to your library.

Inform your county and municipal leaders of the importance of legislation affecting libraries and ask them to contact their counterparts in Albany.

Coordinate these actions with other library board members in your system and the state. (Use the structure of NYSALB to your advantage and look for networking opportunities with other library trustees [check out TusteeNet ].

Look into some of the fundraising resources provided by area libraries. The Mid-Hudson Library System has Fundraising Information Centers in the Chatham, Beacon, Cairo, Mahopac and Marlboro libraries, and a Foundation Center Cooperating Collection in Poughkeepsie. They all provide print and electronic resources.

Start investigating grantmakers and corporate giving programs in your immediate service area, as well as throughout New York State and nationally - explore and learn how to better utilize web resources that are available to nonprofits. Take a look at and match your needs with grantmakers who give online - it can't hurt to look into these resources and the sooner you familiarize yourself with other fundraising opportunities the sooner your library will benefit.

Don't wait for New York State lawmakers to solve your funding woes. State funding is just one of the possible pieces of the jigsaw.

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