With the coming of autumn, thoughts turn to the rapidly approaching new year, and with it a new executive budget for New York State. In each of his last three budgets Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a baffling decision; repeatedly removing increases in funding for libraries enacted by the New York State Legislature during the previous year.
The governor’s repeated $5M budget cut to library aid demonstrates apathy or, perhaps, a lack of a true understanding to the vital role that libraries play in every community.
Libraries are the fabric that weave our communities together. For example, in 1999, less than one third of public libraries had a publicly accessible computer—and today nearly every public library is the primary source of access to the internet for nearly a quarter of households earning below $50,000 annually. Furthermore, in the world of increased technological connectedness, it is even more imperative to have libraries serve as a community center for social interactions that bring people together to enjoy culture, learning and mutual acceptance.
In addition, libraries are also being increasingly called upon to assist state government in its initiatives such as the upcoming 2020 Census. They can play that critical role because libraries take the lead in teaching English to recent immigrants throughout NYS. In short, an increased investment in libraries is a very cost-effective way to meet many of the governor’s and Legislature’s goals.
However, despite the rapidly evolving function of libraries in meeting the needs of all New Yorkers, last year Governor Cuomo proposed library aid at just 1 percent above where it had been funded two decades earlier in 1999.
We urge Governor Cuomo to expand his thinking and actions about libraries. He needs to make a bold new investment in our libraries to provide them with the needed resources to provide all New Yorkers with 21st-century library service. Libraries are a cornerstone of New York’s education and civic infrastructure. Governor Cuomo needs to invest in libraries.
Join us in speaking up for our libraries—sign up as a library champion at www.nyla.org/advocacy.
—Sima Vasa and Bill Keller,
members of the Port Washington Public Library Board of Trustees