Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Library: More Hours, More Service?

In the good old days the Plattsburgh Public Library was open for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. A warm, comfortable place to hang out during the long North Country winter. Another day to use the public access computers, do research or to check out books and other media.

Then whack went the budget ax.

Stan Ransom, PPL Director, has proposed a budget for 2010 that would bring back those Sunday hours. Also, he wants to add another librarian by promoting from within the library staff: one of the clerks will finish her MLS degree in a few months and she could become a Local History/Reference Librarian.

Mayor Donald Kasprzak has proposed a library budget minus these two items. Keep in mind that the library years ago had its budget whacked by 15 percent, $100,000 less than what it had before. It has done its part, keeping costs under control, and should have at least some of its previous budget restored.

For the most part the final say on the budget is in the hands of six people who sit on the Common Council. Competing with other municipal departments, Ransom has to convince the councilors that his proposals are reasonable and needed. Public support on this issue would help. Speak to your ward rep or attend the upcoming hearings on the budget. Email the mayor at mayor@cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov or call 563-7701.

The mayor will still have an opportunity to influence the outcome if the council is evenly split and he has to act as the tiebreaker. Key to approval of the library’s 2010 budget plan is approval by a majority of councilors.

As I’ve detailed before, usage is up at the library across the board. For those councilors who haven’t visited the library lately, they should stop in during “rush hour” or at least talk with patrons for feedback.

Another point: Ransom has done his part to cut costs. For example, the library is surveying its patrons to see what magazines and newspapers are being read to eliminate any titles not being utilized.

The proposed library budget would be money well spent, unlike some of the boondoggles the city has promoted before like the still intangible hotel/conference center by the lake.

In fact, these budget changes beat out anything WIRY radio commentator Ducky Drake has ever proposed on any topic. (Nothing personal, Ducky.)

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