By Paul Golaszewski, Community Relations Manager

Winter 2013 issue of Trustee

Library systems are the statewide infrastructure that hold New York’s libraries together by providing consolidated services, shared programs, and specialized resources that benefit library users, stretch local library dollars, and save money for taxpayers. At the Four County Library System in the south-central region, we do those things for 42 member libraries across Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego Counties, in a 4,000-square-mile territory that arguably holds our state’s most diverse population.

We represent libraries serving communities that are classically rural, with residents who are heavily invested in New York’s thriving dairy economy, as evidenced by Governor Cuomo’s “yogurt summit.” We represent libraries that serve a mid-size, upstate metropolitan region looking to break out of its doldrums and advance into the coming decades with leading-edge biotechnology, smart-energy research and development, next-generation electronics packaging, and health care innovation. And we  represent libraries that serve communities seeded with Big Apple natives who now favor the tranquility of a year-round country lifestyle or the rejuvenation that comes from easy access to a weekend retreat.
We represent these libraries, these communities, these fellow New Yorkers, in the wake of a statewide fiscal crisis that has left us underfunded by more than a million dollars since 2007. Yet we must provide modern services that are expected by today’s library users, we must do so cost-effectively, and we must do so while facing continually rising energy costs, the looming threat of further cuts in library funding, and the ever-present mandate to do more with less. These factors won’t change soon, and yet we must find solutions to the challenges we face.

Our most current approach calls for upgrading our computer servers by seeking funding through this year’s Construction Grant Program. This need is supported by the significant increases in the demands on our automated services. We’ve recently doubled our Internet bandwidth to provide faster access to our ILS, which in turn places greater demands on our aging servers. Other demands – driven by both internal and external needs such as Workflows (the librarian’s interface) and patron usage – clearly define the imperative to deliver faster and more reliable data access.

Another pressing challenge is the lack of experienced library managers across our region, particularly as it relates to their use of technology in the library; it is matched by library boards that do not recognize or support their manager’s dire need for digital literacy training. This double-edged dilemma effectively endorses the manager’s unwillingness to join the ranks of 21st century librarianship, and it shortchanges local library users who cannot rely on their library as a leading resource for modern times. We are seeking workable solutions for both managers and trustees.

Our server project and our intention to advance digital literacy training are just two ways we continue to provide valuable, cost-effective services to our members in a manner that meets the expectations of our diverse collection of library users. Our focus also validates NYLA’s declaration on Library Advocacy Day that library systems bring better libraries for New Yorkers.