STLS feeling pinch of less state aid

Andrew Poole

For libraries in New York, it feels like the early 1990s — and that’s not a good thing.

The $79 million for library aid in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget is less than state funding the New York Library Association received in 1994, wrote Michael Borges, executive director for the New York Library Association, on the STLS website.

Libraries have dealt with a 23 percent slash in funding over the last three years. The $79 million in library aid included in Cuomo’s budget is down from the $102 million received in 2008, added Borges.

All libraries are looking for is to match the percentage aid increase schools will receive if Cuomo’s budget is approved, he said.

“No other educational institutions are being asked to operate and provide services at 1994 levels, not schools or colleges, and neither should libraries,” said Borges.

Ristiina Wigg, executive director for STLS, said her department hasn’t had lay-offs but is instead not filling vacated positions. Three part-time positions are empty out of a total full- and part-time staff of 20.

Along with the personnel reductions, the library system has eliminated a rotating DVD collection. Wigg estimated that 75 percent of libraries utilize the revolving DVD collection, in which libraries receive a fresh batch of DVDs every three months.

The faltering economy has more people turning toward the libraries for both their job search and entertainment, said Wigg. She’s already received messages urging the continuation of the DVD collection.

“We’ve been slightly reducing what we do,” said Wigg. “It’s tough right now to think about reducing further.”

While library officials are pushing state legislators for more aid inclusion in the final budget, STLS will be receiving more help from local libraries.

Wigg said libraries will see an 18 percent increase in their contributions toward STLS and its centralized services in 2012. The services include STARCat, the library system’s online catalog, software facilitating the program, and truck delivery.

Local libraries didn’t need to contribute years ago, said Wigg.

“That is a huge percentage,” said Wigg of the 18 percent contribution from local libraries. “It’s a direct result of the state aid cuts.”