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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Local libraries are worth getting to know"

ALBANY, April 16, 2018 -- Let’s add a few footnotes to last week’s observance of National Library Week.

The American Library Association sponsors this annual observance to help recognize “the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.”

Or, as Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing you absolutely need to know is the location of the library.”

Fortunately, more and more New Yorkers do know the location of their local library, according to a statewide poll conducted earlier this year by the Siena College Research Institute. For example, nearly one-third of New York residents now identify the local library as their primary point of Internet access. Other poll findings include that:

    -- 75% of respondents said they utilize the library at least monthly;
    -- 75% said their local library plays an important role in finding trustworthy information;
    -- Nearly 90% said their library plays an important role in creating educational opportunities; and
    -- Nearly 50% said they have pursued personal learning activities offered by their library.
    Furthermore, past polling has revealed 90% of New Yorkers support increased state funding for local libraries.

On this last point, the 2018-19 state budget is a strong one for libraries. Although Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed to cut state library funding this year, the Legislature rejected the governor’s cuts and, instead, increased aid. The final budget provides $96.6 million in state aid to libraries, including a $34 million investment in capital and construction aid.

Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director of the New York Library Association, said, “New York’s local public libraries are core community educational resources for millions of New Yorkers. We are grateful that our partners in the legislature are seeking to address the past decade of inequitable funding.”

In other words, this year’s budget represents important progress. According to the State Education Department, every dollar invested in state library aid returns seven dollars in local library services.

Library construction aid, in particular, has become a fundamental source of funding to help libraries and library systems make renovations and upgrades to their facilities. A law I sponsored together with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano in 2015 (Chapter 480 of the Laws of 2015), for the first time, included “broadband services” as a category eligible for funding.

Prior to the law’s enactment, libraries were unable to access this funding specifically for broadband purposes. That was a serious shortcoming in the program, particularly for libraries in rural areas and smaller communities where they are often the No. 1 point of Internet access. Libraries are the leading digital literacy educators, a role that will only become more prominent. Expanding library construction aid in this fashion has been an investment in economic growth and workforce development, overall educational quality, and it produces a substantial return by making an enduring, positive difference for many local communities.

I’ve long been a strong supporter of Southern Tier and Finger Lakes public libraries, and have tried to recognize their central importance to the civic, cultural and educational fabric of area communities. Two years ago, I was proud to receive the New York Library Association’s “Outstanding Advocate for Libraries Award.” That same year, I was also one of only seven state senators to receive the 2016 “Library Champion Award” from New Yorkers for Better Libraries, a prominent library advocacy organization.

Public libraries across New York State serve roughly 20 million patrons annually. Our region is extremely fortunate to have an outstanding network of public libraries providing access to books and so many other activities, learning materials, and civic and cultural opportunities. To borrow again from the wisdom of Albert Einstein, our regional libraries are worth getting to know.

Visit the website of the Southern Tier Library System, www.stls.org, for links to member libraries in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates. The members of the Finger Lakes Library System, including Tompkins County, can be found online at www.flls.org.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro

   
   

Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

David M. Reed

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383

 

State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
Website: http://gillibrand.senate.gov/

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
www.omara.nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791
Website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Phillip-A-Palmesano

 

© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869

E-mail publisher@odessafile.com
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