Public libraries group asks county for 3% funding bump

HUDSON–One of the biggest challenges libraries face today is the cost of maintaining e-books. AnnaLee Giraldo, director of the Kinderhook Memorial Library, provided that information to members of the Government Committee of the county Board of Supervisors last month while requesting an increase in funding for the Columbia County Library Association (CCLA).

Usually county committee meetings have many empty seats set aside for the public. But at this meeting on July 25 the crowd, including children, overflowed the room.

“When you buy a paper book, you have it until it falls apart,” said Ms. Giraldo. But an e-book is purchased only for a specified period, such as “12 months or 12 usages.” After that period, in order to keep the e-book on your system, “you must pay again.”

In addition, sellers charge libraries more for e-books than they charge individuals. Ms. Giraldo gave a hypothetical example of an e-book that costs individuals about $15 but costs libraries over $60 for the same digital product. Furthermore, in the example, every time the usage period runs out and the library decides to extend it, the library must pay the $60 charge again, with no renewal discount. And the process repeats each time the contract period expires.

The CCLA has 11 member libraries. Visits to local libraries have increased 12.8% recently. The state Education Department estimates that statewide, “for every $1 invested in libraries, a community sees a $7 return,” according to Ms. Giraldo’s funding request statement.

Libraries have become community meeting and activity places, Ms. Giraldo observed. She said they are one of the only institutions that do not require people using them to meet any special criteria.

A visit to the new Hudson Area Library reveals that it has classes and workshops for children and adults ranging from foreign languages to arts and crafts and other skills; there are also regular events that cover topics like historical presentations and the arts; and there is space for clubs and community forums, with or without political overtones.

One example of libraries’ community service in the funding request statement involves their joining the effort to help combat the opioid abuse crisis. The CCLA gave each library a Narcan kit and trained the library staff how to use it. The organization also created a traveling collection of educational materials on addiction, which rotates between member libraries monthly. In addition, many of the libraries have hosted “programs on addiction and opioid overdoses.”

The State Library website lists libraries in Columbia County: Chatham Public Library (which also has Canaan branch), Claverack Free Library and Reading Room Association, Germantown Library, Hudson Area Library, Kinderhook Memorial Library, Livingston Free Library, New Lebanon Library, North Chatham Free Library, Philmont Public Library, Roeliff Jansen Community Library and the Valatie Free Library.

The CCLA is requesting $69,731 from the Board of Supervisors for fiscal 2018. That’s a 3% increase from the current level. The requested amount is equal to $1.11 per county resident, the request statement says.

The request also emphasizes the library association’s success in implementing the “shared services” model that the state is urging as a way to reduce the overall burden on taxpayers. The 11 libraries “purchase resources as a group. We are able to take advantage of economies of scale.”

The supervisors suggested they will give CCLA a portion of the increase requested.

The next meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Government Committee will be Tuesday, August 22, at 5 p.m., at 401 State Street in Hudson.

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