Library Advocates Rally to Restore Funding

ALBANY, NY (03/10/2009)(readMedia)-- The New York Library Association (NYLA) today held their annual Library Lobby Day, which brought over 1,000 librarians, trustees and library patrons to Albany to ask the Legislature to restore the Governor's proposed $18 million or 18% cut in Library Aid.

The event started with a Legislative Breakfast Reception for legislators and library leaders. At the Breakfast Reception, 87 legislators had their photos taken for the very popular READ posters, which legislators can send to the libraries in their districts to promote the Statewide Summer Reading program.

Library advocates then met with legislators and their staffs in their offices, where they delivered the message that library funding should be a priority for restoration. "During tough economic times, you should not cut funding for public services that are in the greatest demand or can do the most good, and libraries helping people find jobs, start new careers or access public assistance programs fit into that category," said Michael J. Borges, NYLA Executive Director.

The day culminated with a Library Rally at which State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Assembly Libraries and Education Technology Committee, and long-time library champion Senator Hugh Farley all spoke in favor of restoring Library Aid. Other special guests addressing the attendees were children's author Charles R. Smith, Jr., State Librarian Bernie Margolis, and Queens Public Library Director Tom Galante.

Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, commented that she has rarely seen a group at the Capitol like the nearly one-thousand library supporters in the room. Sen. Oppenheimer shared some much-needed positive news, announcing that the Senate Majority supports library funding restoration.

"I can tell you that the Senate Democratic Conference met last night and we are going to restore the $18 million cuts back into the budget," Sen. Oppenheimer told an enthusiastic crowd. "There is probably not a single line item in the budget more important to me than libraries."

Sen. Oppenheimer also announced a Senate Library Subcommittee whose members represent different parts of the state: Sen. Darrel Aubertine from the North Country, Sen. Neil Breslin from the Capital Region, Sen. Brian Foley from Long Island, Sen. Daniel Squadron from New York City and Sen. Oppenheimer from Westchester County.

"I am so proud of all of you for keeping up the fight. Libraries have been shortchanged for so many years already and now would be a terrible time to reduce library funding with the economy turning people back to their libraries," said Oppenheimer.

Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Assembly Libraries and Education Technology Committee said, "We have been talking for years about the need for increased advocacy, your advocacy today surpasses our highest expectations. Your loud voices mean so much in helping us restore the funding for our libraries around the state. The last few years have represented dramatic change for libraries, creating more access to more people, while still maintaining that hometown feeling. This is why we need to keep library doors opened, not closed."

Paulin also expressed support from the Assembly Majority. "There has been great support in the Assembly for full restoration for your services," said Paulin. "Together we will work to ensure libraries get what you need to ensure the important services you provide."

The proposed 2009-10 Executive Budget reduces library aid by $18 million or 18% to $80.5 million, a level not seen since 1993. These cuts are on top of the two cuts already imposed on libraries in 2008, reducing Library Aid from $102 million in 2007 to $98.5 million at the end of 2008. The proposed cuts will also result in a corresponding loss of $2 million in federal funds for library services in New York, reducing federal aid from $9 million to $7 million by 2011.

Library Aid had already been reduced twice in 2008, dropping from $102 million in 2007 to $98.5 million at the end of 2008. Borges stressed that "libraries are willing to do their fair share to address the state's fiscal deficit and have already twice contributed to state budget reductions but we believe these proposed cuts are both draconian and disproportionate."

"To an unemployed person without internet access at home, the library has become an essential public service, a critical resource on the road to economic recovery, and that's why the Legislature needs to find a way to restore the proposed cuts," concluded Mr. Borges.