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Libraries catalogue budget concerns

The Guilderland Library's state aid has been reduced from about $10,000 in 2007 to $8,000 this year.

Philip Ritter, executive director of the Upper Hudson Library System, said library systems have been dealing with shrinking budgets for years. 85 percent of the UHLS's budget is comprised of state aid (the rest is from federal grants and income from leasing out parts of its office building).

"Funding has been a constant problem," Ritter said. "We can only spend what money we have, so once we know what the state's going to give us for the year we determine our budget."

Since he took the post ten years ago, the UHLS has gone from employing 17 to 10, Ritter said.

Library supporters said of all the times to cut library funding, now is one of the worst. Libraries generally see increased use in times of economic strife, as families look to cut back on discretionary spending and the unemployed and underemployed flock into libraries to use Internet connections, browse the classifieds or get help building a resume.

"Our use has really taken a big jump since last year, its busy in here all the time," Pieri said. "Public access computers are being used constantly."

Borges likened libraries to social services like food banks and unemployment insurance, and said it can be used to battle the job crisis by providing training and job-hunting resources. He called the proposed cuts "penny wise but pound foolish" for this reason.

"Libraries are now part of that safety net network," he said.

Paterson recently announced his initial budget proposal had misestimated this year's deficit by $750 million, and insinuated the money would be made up with further reductions. The Governor was due to reexamine the budget in his 21-day amendments due out Tuesday, Feb. 9, after The Spotlight went to print.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the governor's budget could incur more cuts to libraries," Borges said.

Paterson in past weeks has made reining in spending the drumbeat of his public presence in past weeks, saying the state needs to seek out significant reductions if it wishes to remain solvent.

Taxpayers vote on local library budgets along with school budgets in May.

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