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Local libraries ask county to keep them in the budget

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 September 2020 at 3:09 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Emily Cebula, director of Yates Community Library in Lyndonville, said libraries have continued to provide important services to residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. She is speaking at Wednesday’s Orleans County Legislature meeting.

ALBION – The four public libraries in Orleans County are asking county legislators to keep them in the budget, during a time of fiscal stress for the county.

Orleans County official worry that sales tax revenues will be down, as well as state reimbursements, pressuring legislators to find ways to reduce costs. Legislators are working on the 2021 budget that will likely be adopted in late November or December.

The county currently provides $10,087 to the four libraries – Albion (Hoag Library), Holley (Community Free Library), Lyndonville (Yates Community Library) and Medina (Lee-Whedon Memorial Library).

The libraries for years have been asking for $1 per resident, which would be $42,883. The current allotment amounts to 23.5 cents per person.

“We are not asking for an awful lot of money but we are providing an awful lot of services to our community,” said David Schwert, a member of the board of directors for Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina.

Schwert said the local libraries function on a “shoe-string budget” and utilize many volunteers to provide services and run programs for children and adults.

Ginny Hughes, a trustee for the Yates library, said the libraries provide more than books, online access, meeting rooms and many other programs and services.

Ginny Hughes, a trustee for the Yates Community Library, asked legislators to keep money in the budget for libraries. Lisa Erickson, assistant director for the Nioga Library System, is at left.

The libraries are “a measuring stick of a community” for people and businesses that are looking to move into Orleans County, Hughes said.

“In this very difficult time please continue to support our libraries,” Hughes said.

Tom Bindeman is director of the Nioga Library System that serves Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties. He said the state has cut aid to Nioga by 27 percent. Nioga will be looking at layoffs and reduced services.

The county allocations are especially critical in light of the state reductions, Bindeman said.

He praised the libraries for retooling during the pandemic, and offering more online services. The libraries are seeing an increase in downloadable books and magazines, Bindeman said.

Many of the sites have also boosted the strength of the wireless signal in their parking lots so more people can access the internet, especially in the library off hours.

Bindeman also said the libraries have been helping people fill out the Census. Orleans County has lagged behind other nearby counties in Census participation. Bindeman said Nioga funding from the state is partly tied to the local population count. He urged county legislators to help promote the Census.

“Anything you can do to get the word out,” he said. “If you go down (in population), our funding also goes down.”

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