Libraries catalogue budget concerns

Few organizations whose budget is dependent on state spending are happy with Gov. David Paterson's 2010 budget proposal, and that includes those synonymous with the word free: libraries.

Paterson's proposal calls for a 2.76 percent reduction in library aid payments, or a $2.4 million cut, that would bring total library funding to $84.45 million. The governor is calling for reductions in most areas of state spending.

New York Library Association Executive Director Michael Borges testified on Tuesday, Feb. 2,before the State Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Education that the cuts would reduce library aid to below 1998 levels, and would be the fifth time since April 2008 that library aid has been cutan 18 percent reduction.

We've already done our part to addressing the state's deficit," Borges said in a later interview. "The funding cuts are beginning to create great stress on libraries and library systems."

Nancy Pieri, director of the Bethlehem Public Library, said library aid reductions probably won't directly impact her library's budget, but the effects on the Upper Hudson Library System could be felt locally.

"We would be able to accommodate those cuts," she said of budget proposal. "But what I can't accommodate is for my system to go broke."

This year's Bethlehem Public Library Budget calls for $22,000 in state aid, down more than $4,000 from last year.

The Upper Hudson Library System runs an interlibrary loan program, online databases and catalogues and provides technical support services"all expensive endeavors. If the system must discontinue the services costs will likely be passed on to local libraries and taxpayers might end up footing the bill, said Borges, who is also a Guilderland Library Trustee.

"A good segment of library aid goes to the library systems, which provide the connection and the backbone of individual libraries," he said. "There's a lot of cost savings involved to the librariesthe state created these library systems for that very reason."

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