Summer 2006

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President's Memo

By Norman J. Jacknis, NYSALB President

Summer 2006 issue of Trustee

Now Is Really The Time!
When the Presidential election occurred two years ago, I asked the question: are libraries a national issue?  I thought they were, but reasonable people could, of course, disagree.

But I cannot see room for disagreement about the importance of this year’s State elections for our libraries.  After all, the State government sets the rules by which libraries operate and provides the funding for all kinds of library services.
By the time you read this, the elections for New York State offices will have started in earnest – and they are more important than they have been in a long time. 

First, it has been twelve years since we’ve had a gubernatorial election without an incumbent.  Although the early polls seem to show an overwhelming margin for one of the candidates, there will still be plenty of debate and opportunity to get the candidates to pay some attention to library issues.

Second, because of the apparently strong sentiment among voters for reform of the State Government, there may be a greater chance for competitive races for legislative positions than has occurred for decades.  With greater competition comes greater opportunity to focus those candidates on library issues.

You might start by getting together with the rest of your board and asking the candidates – both state legislative and statewide candidates – how they feel about policy and funding issues of importance to you.  Ask your questions in writing and post the answers on the web and in your local newspaper.

You can also make those candidates aware of both statewide and national polls concerning libraries.  An especially good recent and credible source is the June 2006 report entitled “Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public and Leadership Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century”.  The report shows how funding libraries is one of the most cost-effective means of solving “pressing community problems, including providing a safe and engaging place for teens; building a strong and literate workforce; and extending access to technology.”

You can see the report at  Also don’t forget to read their list of ideas in the section called “Want to Help Spread the Word?” at Of course, to be most effective, you should be spreading the word before November.

It will be many years before there will be another strategic opportunity, like this, for library trustees.  Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity.  Every technique of advocacy, every means of raising awareness of your library and library system, every approach that you held back waiting for the right moment – now is the time to use them all because the politicians now have their “ears to the ground”.  Let them hear some “library music” from the grass roots that they are so attuned to.

And, if you find a new or particularly effective approach, please share it with your fellow trustees around the state on the NYSALB “listserv” by sending an email to  (You can also send us private email at

Thank you.

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