April 2000

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From The Desk Of The Committee Chair Assemblywoman

Naomi C. Matusow

April 2000 issue of Trustee

Many times since becoming Chair of the Assembly's Libraries and Education Technology Committee, I've been impressed by the depth of caring and commitment found in you, the library community. Your efforts, devoted to providing and advocating for delivery of the best in library services to the most people in the face of limited state support, are worthy of the highest praise.

Nevertheless, nothing prepared me for the impact of the statements made by New York writers at the Library Committee's hearing held in Brooklyn this January. Instead of trying to focus the topic, we simply asked for authors to share their personal impressions of and experiences with libraries. You would have been thrilled by the words of the authors.

Those of us who are readers may see the library in only one way - but to a writer, the library is both alpha and omega. The writers spoke of the library as inspiration, resource, and refuge. During their various speeches, each writer that day personified the library as a friend.

Nearly all of the writers began with reminiscences about their childhood days spent at the library. They spoke of librarians who made them feel welcome, and of books in which they saw themselves and their dreams reflected. The writers of children's books spoke of wanting to provide those same experiences for today's readers.

Many of the speakers also had stories to tell about what they couldn't find at libraries. They, like so many New Yorkers, have had to deal with reduced hours and smaller collections due to the funding drought libraries have faced. These dedicated library users felt keenly the lost opportunities created by closed doors and empty shelves, not only for themselves but for the thousands of other readers who come to the library with them.

At one time or another most of us have, after closing a book, experienced a renewed sense of purpose. The words spoken at the Libraries Hearing had the same effect. The members of the Committee and those in the audience felt a renewed commitment to libraries, and I felt a deep desire to have similar inspiring words reach a larger audience.

That is why I encourage you to have author speak-outs all over New York, mobilizing people across the state to demand increased state funding for libraries. I urge all of you to think about holding a similar event in your community. The Libraries Committee would be proud to participate. This may inspire in those who've come to take libraries for granted a new commitment to fighting for appropriate library funding.

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