Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Area libraries fighting image of Obsolescence and new technologies

For generations, the local libraries were bastions of learning and education. Countless students filled tables researching topics for assignments while deciphering the old Dewey Decimal system of cataloguing books.

Individuals, lacking the resources of massive encyclopedias, or the latest hard cover murder mystery, or lovelorn story rushed to the local book depository.

The list of magazines and local newspapers left the reader in awe.

Slowly at first, things began to change and libraries fought to keep pace.

Libraries fought technology with technology. Books on tape became commonplace.

The internet sprung up and opened up worlds of exploration. Libraries fought back, creating programs to enlist younger and older customers to their facilities. For those without a computer link, libraries filled a need to the world-wide web. Some libraries even offered non-traditional reading courses to create traffic. Many libraries offered DVDs, CDs, e-books. Libraries filled in traditional services, serving as meeting places, providing lecture series and even musical events, as well as reading and digital literacy opportunities,
Even as traffic increased due to new programs, the area library, often funded by municipal contributions, began falling victim to budget cutbacks as their future existence and relevance was called into question.

Households began replacing the written word with the digital views and downloads, as computers became cheaper and as common as toasters.

The Wayne County Board of Supervisors over the years, under pressure to serve up a balanced budgets, decided library funding would stay stagnant at the 2005 level. When the 2013 budget woes became a reality, library funding became passe in discussions. At first, the Board decided to cut the entire $94,365 out this year. After some discussion, it was decided to cut all library funding by 1/3 this year, 1/3 in the 2014 budget year and eliminate all library funding by 2015.

For local libraries, attempting to stay on top of the latest technology curve, any cuts to already tight budgets came as a blow. At Tuesday night’s County Budget Hearing, several library trustees from various municipalities pled for funding restoration, citing libraries as integral to people without internet access, those looking to prepare resumes, or in search of jobs.

The Board of Supervisors was unmoved by their pleas. Over 30+ county jobs were axed in the 2013 budget and layoffs were already in place. The area libraries lost this round of county funding.

Depending on how the municipal libray is classified determines how and where they get their funding. All the libraries also count on “Friends of the Library” groups for fundraisers and support for non-funded programs and materials.

County funding was the least of losses for other municipal libraries. Upset that the Walworth Seely Library was offering non-traditional courses, some even duplicating already offered services from other town departments, Walworth Supervisor Bob Plant, cut out $20,000 of the town library contribution in the 2013 budget. Plant reduced the Town contribution to $248,799. The Walworth Seely Library also gets $10,000 from the Wayne Central School District and another $6000 from the Gananda School District.

In Macedon, funding for their public library was capped this year and remained at the 2012 level of $195,834. They lost about $2,000 in County funding, but were increased by the Town of Farmington by about $1,000. “We have no complaints,” said Librarian Darlene Virkler. “We’re really okay. We usually come in under budget.” Macedon also receives about $1500 per year from both the Pal-Mac and Gananda School Districts.

Williamson, who boasts the third busiest circulation of library materials out of 42 libraries in the regional Pioneer Library System, will receive $515,000 from the Town in 2013, down from $535,000 this year. They will lose over $2,000 with the County cut.

Williamson Librarian Cheryl Gravelle said she understands the County situation in making the library cuts. “We are responding to it as well as we can. I know they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The sad thing is that as the economy worsens, more people come in to share our resources. They often have nowhere else to turn.” She noted an uptick in people using the library to research jobs and otherwise search the internet since the economy downswing.”