Library Officials Rally Support
Officials of the James Prendergast Library are appealing to the Jamestown community to attend, en masse, an upcoming city council work session and voice support for their local library.
At a meeting of the library’s Board of Trustees on Thursday, board President R. Thomas Rankin discussed the proposed 2018 city budget’s $50,000 funding cut to the library — which is a 50 percent decrease from the $100,000 it received this year — and urged Jamestown residents to fight for the future of the library and its ability to continue offering community services.
“We definitely need that $50,000 back,” Rankin said. “It’s a tiny amount in the context of the city’s overall budget, but it’s a huge amount for us. We don’t spend nearly enough on books and materials and, right now, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to spend anything on books and materials next year. We can’t suffer any more cuts by the city.”
“We’re pushing the city council to keep this institution open, and give the library it’s needed funding,” he continued. “We’re asking for 5 percent of the deficit, or an even tinier fraction of the overall city budget, in that extra $50,000; and I think that’s doable. When you look at the services we provide to the community, the money the city gives us is so well spent in reaching just about everybody in Jamestown.”
Rankin said library officials will be attending and giving a presentation at the Monday, Nov. 13, work session of city council. He said everyone is welcome to attend the meeting to share their concerns, and that people who would like to see the library funded at last year’s level express that sentiment to Mayor Sam Teresi and their city councillor.
Jamestown resident Doug Champ provided the board meeting’s sole public comment, stating his belief in the importance of all libraries in society and noting that the support the Prendergast Library receives from its community and city officials appears to be lacking in comparison with those of other areas.
“I find it interesting that our mayor calls the library’s request for more funding ‘an idea,'” Champ said. “Libraries have been at the center of learning and knowledge throughout the course of human civilization, and that’s only been further proven with the advancements of technology over recent years.”
“I also find it interesting that the people making the decisions on the how much the library is going to receive haven’t made the effort and time to come and learn about the library and how it works,” he continued. “In all the years I’ve been coming here, never once have I seen our mayor or a single city council member in here.”
Rankin pointed out at a later portion of the meeting that neither Teresi nor any member of Jamestown City Council were in attendance at a recent open house hosted by the library, to which all were invited.
At a recent city council meeting, during which Teresi presented his proposed 2018 budget, Teresi said it wouldn’t be right to propose an increase in funding to the library when he is proposing a budget with a $946,679 deficit because of increased costs for health insurance, retirement benefits and possibly salaries. Four city employee collective bargaining units have expired contracts that could potentially get settled through negotiations or arbitration and might include salary increases. The proposed 2018 budget currently has a $94,577, or .58 percent, decrease in salaries, but this would most likely change if and when an agreement is reached with the employee unions.
Teresi said, for the most part, the library is the last outside agency the city still assists with funding. The Fenton History Center also receives funding, around $16,000, from the city, but Teresi said that is only because the city owns the Fenton Mansion and the money goes toward maintaining the facility.
In other business, Rankin reported that slightly fewer than 10 of the paintings previously housed in the library’s Fireplace Room — specifically, those created by American artists — were auctioned earlier this month via Sotheby’s Auction House in New York City. While he was unable to disclose the net proceeds from these sales at this time, Rankin said the hammer prices for each painting sold can be found on Sotheby’s website at sothebys.com.
He said the library’s European paintings collection will be up for auction on Nov. 21 at Sotheby’s, while a third sale of lower-end paintings and any not sold via Sotheby’s will occur at Stair Galleries in New York City sometime in January.
Rankin said the library is technically able to use the funds garnered via the sales of its paintings to make up for its projected budget cut, but that to do so is unwise and, at best, only a temporary solution.
“We’re very encouraged by what we’ve seen from this first round of auctions; however, past results don’t guarantee future results,” he said. “There’s no legal restriction on how we use that money, however, that doesn’t make good long-term sense for the library.”
“These funds are supposed to go into endowment and earn money, hopefully, forever,” he added. “If we spend all this money on our operational budget, then we’re not helping our endowment and our future. We need to be very disciplined and put that money straight into our savings account so we can earn interest on it. That’s how the art collection will help us in the future, by providing a new stream of income to us.”