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Protest Public Library Cuts Tomorrow at Noon

Supporters of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library will gather tomorrow (Saturday, 11/6) at noon in front of the downtown library in Lafayette Square to show their outrage over County Executive Chris Collins’s proposed cuts to the public system—as well as the limp support coming from the B&ECPL’s Board of Trustees. Tempers are rising in response to this recent letter from Trustee Chair, Sharon A. Thomas, advocating their current “behind the scenes” approach, rather than the “rallying type of advocacy which occurred back in 2005.”

Dear Supporter of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System:

For the past few weeks there has been an abundance of letters and
comments published in the Buffalo News, on Facebook, listserves and
back and forth through e-mails about the Library System’s current
situation.  Some of the comments are positive, some negative, some
accurate, some inaccurate and some malicious in nature.

It is most disturbing to me and my fellow Library Board members that
some people are intent upon criticizing the actions of others.  While
the trustees have not endorsed the rallying type of advocacy which
occurred back in 2005, we have certainly been working behind the
scenes to get our message directly to the elected officials and to the
public.

I think it is important to clarify the following:
•        Every Library employee in our 37- libraries, whether he or
she works in Buffalo, Elma, Kenmore or in-between, matters to us.  The
Board directed Bridget Quinn-Carey to plan a 2011 budget with reduced
funding.  Weeks of talks took place including conversations with the
County Executive and other elected county lawmakers.  Discussion has
always centered on how we can deal with these cuts in a way that will
maximize services to the public and least impact our hardworking and
dedicated employees.

•        B&ECPLS made bold decisions to reduce library hours.  Not one
library that closed in 2005 has re-opened in the System.  If we were
to close libraries, rather than reduce hours, the likelihood would be
low that those libraries would ever re-open again.  The plan keeps the
doors open and retains as many services, and jobs, as possible.

•        The downtown Central Library is very large.  This 5-story
building (2 public floors and 3 floors for storage, maintenance and
closed stacks) costs thousands of dollars to open, heat and maintain
every single day.  Over a year ago, the Library began what was to be a
long-term study to determine future uses of this huge downtown
building.  With the exception of the 1st floor main entry and Popular
Materials Department, which completed a full renovation in 2005, and
the introduction of modern public access computing throughout the
building, only modest changes have been made to the 1960s interior
layout and design of the building.  Evolving trends in library service
delivery demand that the current use and configuration be re-examined.
This involves reorganizing resources, consolidating service points,
introducing new functions, and reviewing structural and design
elements.

•       There are many different opportunities going forward to
discuss the “library of the future”.  That is why we are asking the
community to tell us what they want to see and what services they want
from the Library.  Re-Imagine community meetings are scheduled next
week (Monday, November 8th at Central, Tuesday, November 9th at ECC
South and Wednesday, November 10th at ECC North).  An online survey is
posted at www.buffalolib.org – click on the Re-Imagine image.  Focus
groups are planned with the educational, cultural, business, downtown,
senior and youth affinity groups.  One-on-one discussions will take
place with community leaders.  And, to provide a valuable perspective
on the public comments, the staff will be engaged after we hear from
the community.  The end-result is to hear from library users,
non-users and staff regarding what the library of the future needs to
be.

•        The System’s electronic services and upgrades are growing,
but we all agree that we have a long way to go to keep up with the
fast changing technology track.   A newly announced grant will put
RFID (radio frequency identification) in all of our Libraries.

•        Bridget has, over the past few weeks, worked tirelessly to
get our message out to the masses through media interviews and
personal appearances.  Including, but not limited to:

Business First, before the September Board meeting
Channel 4 News, day of September Board meeting
Channel 2 News, day before Erie County budget hearing
WEBR Radio news, after Erie County budget hearing
Mark Sommer, Buffalo News, before and after the Board meeting
Channel 7, after the October Board meeting
YNN News, after the October Board meeting
WBFO News, after the October Board meeting
Bee Publications, after the October Board meeting
WBEN Radio – Morning show, last week
Citadel Radio (WHTT, 97 Rock, Edge) taped last week, to air on Sunday
AM Buffalo —  Monday

(Editor’s note: Why didn’t she contact Artvoice? Was it something we said?  http://blogs.artvoice.com/avdaily/2010/09/22/job-security-at-the-buffalo-erie-county-public-library/)

•       Our mission remains, connecting our diverse community with
library resources that enrich, enlighten and entertain – we cannot,
however provide the services we are charged with providing if we are
not all in agreement that:
Change is needed
There are costs involved
We will never have full agreement on forward moving
decisions; we strive for consensus and compromise
We are working for a sustainable Library System for the
entire community

Thank you for taking the time to better understand our position.  I
hope I have successfully conveyed that these decisions have not been
easy to make .  But decisions needed to be made as we prepare for
2011.  Please remember, just because you don’t see us screaming and
shouting it doesn’t mean we are not working for you and the taxpayers
of this community to continue excellent library services.

Highest Regards,

Sharon A. Thomas
Chair, B&ECPL Board of Trustees

————————————————————————

Everyone who understands and appreciates the important value of public libraries—especially during a time of economic hardship—is encouraged to turn out in support.


  • sherman

    “just because you don’t see us screaming and
    shouting”

    Gee, I didn’t know writing a letter to my legislator and signing a petition was “screaming and shouting.” Where do they get these trustees anyway? They certainly don’t sound very “trustworthy.” And why would you be upset that the public is trying to get more funding for your organization??!!!

  • Hapklein

    I wish these wimpy administrators would learn to develop some backbone and defend the institution they are paid to develop and preserve.

    During the Giambra administration Parks was under all sorts of pressure to reduce costs and even find revenues and the Commissioner squirmed and slithered trying to satisfy some strange accounting procedure that still begs explaination.

    Now the library board and administration do poorly conducted steps greasing the ways for dropping employees.

    The library is not a production line that can be cut on a bean counters whim. It is a county institution reaching back two centuries that provides incredible services to our community and should be enhanced and protected by all who have anything to do with its life and continuance.
    Shame on these people who do not realize this. Their presence does us harm. can not we be rid of them and get some imaginative management?

  • notjustsourgrapes

    The missive from the chair of the board is believed to be in response to a very articulate and seemingly accurate and on point blog entry from lisnews.org and can be read below:

    Buffalo Public Library Director and Board of Trustees Refuse to Advocate
    November 2, 2010 – 3:25pm — Anonymous Patron (not verified)

    SITUATION: The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library faces a $6.8 million shortfall for 2011 if the budget proposed by County Executive Chris Collins stands. Library hours will be reduced from 332 to 205. Scores of professional librarians, some with as much as 10 years of service, are being layed-off.

    COST: Buffalo/Erie County library services cost $28.64 per capita while comparably sized cities pay $43 and up per capita.

    The Collins budget cuts $4 million from the Library’s 2011 operating budget. This coupled with the loss of over $30,000 in State Aid and the loss of $750,000 in County Inter-Fund Transfer Revenue accounts for a total revenue shortfall of $4.8 million. Coupled with a $1.2 million shortfall currently managed by the Library Fund Balance and a projected 2011 increase in operating costs of $800,000 brings the total projected shortfall to $6.8 million. The proposed 2011 Buffalo & Erie County Public Library operating budget is $21,500,000 down from $27,500,00 in 2010, a cut of over 20%.
    If this Budget is adopted, it translates into reduced access to facilities (hours in all libraries will be cut), access to information (computers, high-speed Internet and library materials), programming (children’s story hours, adult computer training and outreach programs). In addition, it dramatically reduces Library staff. It is estimated that the cuts will mean approximately 105 full-time equivalent positions will be laid off with a reduction in hours and benefits for those employees who remain. This occurs at a time when Library utilization has increased across the board. Visits, computer sessions and circulation have continually risen since the lay-offs of 2005. All of these statistics are from the Library’s 2011 Budget Planning statement located at the Library’s website (www.buffalolib.org).

    The Board of Trustees of the Library has assured the public that under this budget, no libraries will be closed. Although true in the short term, this statement is misleading. It should state that no libraries would be closed, yet. With ratification of this Budget, all of the System libraries will be in non-compliance to New York State standards for minimum hours. The System will request a variance for non-compliance in mid-2012. If any of the libraries are not in compliance after that time, they risk losing their State charters, accreditation and State aid. It is very likely that many of the smaller libraries will be closed at that time, as current levels of staffing and funding will not allow those libraries to become compliant.

    So far, there has been a lack of public advocacy on the part of the Library’s Board of Trustees and Library Director. This may be due to the fact that the four appointees of the County Executive (Anne Leary, John Schmidt, Rick Lewis and Albert Michaels) have encouraged a policy of accepting the cuts. Ms Leary, Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Schmidt, as well as the Library Director (Bridget Quinn-Carey) and other Trustees have all donated money to the Collins For Our Future Election Committee. In fact, Ms. Leary and Mr. Schmidt are co-chairs of the Finance Committee for that organization. This behavior is outrageous in that the Library Board of Trustees adopted a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Policy on September 16, 2010 (Resolution 2010-34). In that Code, it states that Board members …”shall perform their duties impartially”, …”avoid situations in which their personal interests, activities or financial affairs are, or likely to be perceived as being in conflict with the best interests of the B&ECPL”, …”avoid having interests that may reasonably bring into question their position in a fair, impartial and objective manner”, …”not knowingly act in any way that would reasonably be expected to create an impression among the public that they are engaged in conduct that violates their trust as Board members or officials”, …”not use or attempt to use their position with the B&ECPL to obtain unwarranted privileges or advantages for themselves or others”, …”shall avoid situations in which personal interests might be served or financial benefits gained at the expense of library users”, and …”shall distinguish clearly in their actions and statements between their personal philosophies and attitudes and those of the institution”.

    At past Board meetings in response to the Collins budget, Ms. Leary has stated she would not “go to war with Chris Collins,” and “we can close libraries later.” Mr. Lewis has repeatedly stated “Laying off employees and closing libraries is not the worst thing you can do.” Director Quinn-Carey has remained silent when comments such as these are made. Are these Trustees of Mr. Collins or the public library system? Although Director Quinn-Carey has been featured on local news outlets, public relations is not the same thing as advocacy.

    The fact of the matter is that the cuts to the Library are not lowering anyone’s taxes. They merely shift money from the Library, which serves the entire population of Erie County to the County Executive so he can reward his friends and political appointees. This is an outrage since Erie County has an enormous reserve fund of over $70 million, much of it in Federal Stimulus money.

    However, friends and supporters of the library have attempted to advocate on the library’s behalf, even if the Trustees and Director refuse to do so. There is an online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savebecpl/ and a rally opposing these cuts on Saturday, November 6 at Noon in Lafayette Square, downtown Buffalo. Library supporters will also be at the public budget meeting at the Erie County Legislature on November 10.