Trustee

Fall 2007

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.

President's Memo

By Richard Strauss, NYSALB President

Fall 2007 issue of Trustee

Since my background is from a small association library, and the majority of the libraries in New York State are small association libraries, I will try to provide some thoughts on funding small association libraries.  As a point of understanding, an association library is an independent “company” chartered by the State of New York to provide library service to a specified area.  Association libraries often include “free” or “community” in their names.  Seldom or never do they included public in their names, as public implies a library funded directly by public funds, i.e. village, town, or district.
As an association library, first consider taking the next step and becoming a school district or special district library.  The process is not that difficult.  As a matter of fact, our editor, Sam Patton, will present the story of his library’s (East Fishkill) successful and rapid process (just 9 months from association to special district) at the annual NYLA Conference this year.  Unfortunately, you may not receive this in time to plan on attending.

This is the preferred model for libraries throughout New York.  Trustees are elected, voters approve the budget, and fiscally your library becomes much stronger.  Of course there are other factors to be considered, including staff coming under civil service and the fate of endowment funds the library may own.  These are the bumps in the road, not major mountains to be scaled.

If you plan on doing this, consult your system, they are more that willing to help.  Library Development in Albany also has resources that can assist.

Does this seem like too much to swallow right now?  Let me provide an observation. While training trustees throughout the state, I have discovered that many trustees are often unaware of the funding options they have.

Most association libraries are funded with monies collected by the village, town, or the local school district.  They also may receive State monies through their local system, based on a 1990 census funding formula.  I don’t know if this formula has been updated to the 2000 census.  That is a topic for another column.  Regardless, funding can come from several local sources.

Your library can count on only one of these from year to year, the funds collected on your behalf by the school district or municipality.  Is your library being held hostage by the local village or town?  Do you go hat in hand each year to beg for your subsistence?  Why bother.  Take the step and consolidate your funding via a proposition on a district ballot, either in the School District, or in the political entity that includes your service area.  The school district’s Board of Education or the board of the political entity cannot refuse your request.  Work with your local politicians. Most village and town boards will welcome the prospect of eliminating a library line item perhaps to invest in another pay loader or snowplow.  Educate community groups on the benefits of this approach to library funding.  Your board should invest the time to be sure voters understand what you are trying to achieve.

Once a level of funding is established, the school district or entity is required to collect this amount for the library each year without change.  Each year the library should hold a vote to ask for additional funding if for no other reason than to keep up with inflation.  Should this proposition be defeated (although nearly 98% of library propositions are passed) the level of funding will remain the same as previously approved.

For an association library, funding via a proposition is the path of least resistance.  An option is also available to get a library referendum on a ballot separate from the regular November ballot. 

Do you know there is even more “free” money available?  Believe it or not some libraries do not conduct an annual fund drive.

Regardless, do you know why the library is the tallest building in town? Because it has the most “stories.”


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