A Legisative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
In New York state there are more than 750 libraries located in cities, towns, and villages.
They serve as both a community space for events and a key to resources and reading materials for people all ages.
They play a critical role for those who need access to computers and other technology and, in recent years, have worked to expand eBooks and online offerings for patrons across the state.
In addition to providing traditional services and educational resources, libraries have welcomed the opportunity to help patrons with career services by hosting online resume building workshops and improving access to computers.
In many cases, people who are looking for work or wish to change careers will go to the library to fill out job applications or find essential information about a career pathway that can lead to jobs with increased pay.
Because the libraries are so accessible and are often open after 5 p.m., it is sometimes easier for a job applicant to access these resources at a library than at a job search center.
This type of career assistance is critical to our small communities and has a direct impact on improving a person’s quality of life.
Our libraries are also integral to families of small children and for students in grades K-12, especially during the summer months.
Every year I host a Summer Reading Program that challenges kids to read when school lets out in June through the end of August.
This program encourages leisurely reading which allows kids to explore topics and learning at their own pace.
It also helps prevent what educators call the ‘summer slide’–a loss of academic progress during the summer months.
During the challenge, kids are encouraged to use their local library.
Some who participate have said that without their local libraries, kids would not have access to books during the summer months.
Thankfully, most Upstate legislators agree state funding for libraries is essential. This year, the enacted budget allocated $96.6 million in operating aid.
This funding helps libraries with operational costs and programming.
While I believe we should appropriate more, I was pleased the budget appropriation was on par with last year’s amount.
Additionally, $34 million was made available to libraries which can be used for building renovations and other facility upgrades.
In April, the original budget cut this construction and renovation funding by $20 million.
Fortunately, before session ended, Upstate lawmakers were successful in restoring this critical funding to last year’s levels.
Maintaining buildings and facilities is a costly endeavor but critical to the future of our libraries and to the next generation of patrons.
Five libraries in the 120th district will receive construction and renovation funding as part of a $34 million capital funding appropriation in the State Budget.
This funding includes: $13,038 for Belleville Philomathean Free Library; $26,030 for Fulton Public Library; $55,538 for Mannsville Free Library; $237,875 for Parish Public Library; and $7,463 Baldwinsville Public Library.
These grants are part of the New York State Education Department’s recently-approved 251 construction projects for public libraries across the state.
I’m proud to have fought for and secured this critical library funding during the 2019 Legislative Session, and I will continue to advocate for our local libraries going forward.
Supporting libraries in the work they do for our communities and helping them maintain and improve facilities will yield benefits to small communities for years to come.
If you have any questions or comments regarding these or other state issues, please contact me.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by email at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185.
You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.