Time to Step Up

soup_kitchenThere was an interesting story in The New York Times this past week on the challenges libraries and librarians face during a recession. The bulk of the story talked about how library staffers face increased stress associated with higher usage from resume-writers, kids and homeless folks.

In Arlington Heights, Ill., “officials said the library was experiencing double-digit increases in the circulation of DVDs, CDs and books on tape. The library’s many children’s programs and cultural arts events are also filled to capacity, reflecting a growing demand, linked to the economy, for free entertainment.” I’m sure our local libraries here in the Hudson Valley are experiencing similar stresses and capacity issues. These are tough times we’re in, and people need to be entertained as much as they need to research jobs and write resumes.

Unfortunately, many “free things” are threatened by the recession and the winding down of revenue needed to support parks, recreation and associated programming. The good news is that there are many free things still around. For example, the Catskills Preserve is vast, offering miles and miles of trails and vistas. Sunset at any one of the Catkills peaks are not only free, but priceless.

Locally, maybe people can step up and volunteer their time to help out. Wouldn’t it be great for volunteers to help clean our city parks? Or run some programs? Does the Kingston Library have a volunteer staff? I’m sure they could use the help. Or maybe a local soup kitchen?

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

2 thoughts on “Time to Step Up”

  1. The NYT article could put the fear of G-D in you in case it’s not there already. The Boston Globe had a story (by Eric Moskowitz Globe Staff / March 16, 2009) about some towns in
    “Massachusetts that risk losing many of their borrowing rights as communities consider cutting library budgets below minimum levels set by the state. That would jeopardize their certification with the Board of Library Commissioners, triggering a double penalty: They would no longer be eligible for the state grants that round out local library budgets, and their residents would be deprived of the ability to borrow from most other public libraries.
    Last month, the board stripped certification from four towns, the most rejected in one year for inadequate funding since the recession of the early 1990s. Those four communities – Freetown, Hubbardston, Norton, and Wareham – were penalized for cuts they had made over the past year, before cities and towns across the state were reeling financially as a result of the recession.” All but three of the state’s 351 cities and towns maintain libraries. To be certified, communities must meet multiple standards, including a requirement that they increase library budgets each year by 2.5 percent, compared with the average spent in the three previous years.
    With four towns added to the decertified list, 14 out of 348 local library systems lack certification. Officials in those communities call the requirements impractical in difficult times. At a meeting last month, Freetown’s selectmen said the decision was “abominable” and vowed to “knock on doors” on Beacon Hill to overturn it, according to a local newspaper account.Many more municipalities could be in a similar position next year, their finances hampered by a recession that has battered local revenues and state tax collections. As a result, Governor Deval Patrick has slashed pledged aid to cities and towns by $128 million this year and could deepen the cut to as much as $375 million in fiscal 2010.”
    Kingston Library has many volunteers who complement the staff in numerous ways from students like Kevin Brice who set up the website and manages it remotely from college; to people who repair books; to the Friends of Kingston Library who do things like conduct a book sale to raise money and donate about 11 grand a year; to the entire board of trustees who voluntarily work hand in hand with Margie Menard, the director, to ensure that any and all things are done that are necessary to keep the library in operation. The NYS Legislature cut library funding by about 8% instead of the 18% they intended initially, but we should get by as a city in this austere period. The broadband capacity is being expanded for the patrons who use the in-house desktop computers which are all Dell with each one having the same programs on them from MS. There is free wi/fi service as a great bonus for those who might need to utilize it with their laptop for whatever reason.
    The budget for the upcoming fiscal year at the library will have to increase by a minimal amount due to overall increases in utility bills and the extra broadband service as well as needing to pay a fee to continue having the interlibrary borrowing capacity, etc. So when the new budget is on the ballot this year we all should vote “YES” since the services provided are necessary and not available for free everywhere. By having a library card the entire universe opens up in so many virtual ways with digital media as well as the old standards that will never go out of style—plain old book reading. Sorry that this went so long but without the Kingston Library this city would be deep in the shadow of third world places that are lucky they have water and electricity; so we Americans should count our blessings and be thankful we are here and can avail ourselves of such wondrous things. Amen


Leave a Comment