Lakewood Library Has Few Reserves On Which To Rely

To The Reader’s Forum:

Thank you for affirming that “Libraries are critical resources, particularly for small communities” (Opinion, May 13, 2018). Libraries are education, democracy, and the only hope for many in need, especially in resource-poor areas. They are THE model of efficient and responsible use of public funds. Our communities need strong libraries, not more empty buildings.

Unfortunately a recent editorial inaccurately and exponentially inflated the bank account of one of the libraries seeking direct public funding. It is my responsibility to correct this: both libraries have little in reserve funds, less than one year’s operating budget, and run off of much lower funding than the average Chautauqua County library (which is saying a lot, our libraries operate on a fraction of the state average).

That these libraries continue to exist and thrive after years of chronic under-funding is nothing short of incredible, and given that they are keeping their budgets extremely low (currently at a per-household cost of less than a slice of Wegman’s pizza per month), I consider the residents of the SWCS District very lucky to pay so little for so much. I understand that there is some opposition from areas of the school district that have always enjoyed the services of multiple nearby libraries at no cost; it is my responsibility to report that this area contains about 75% library card holders, which is extremely high compared to county and state averages. Some of the best things in life are free, but the really really great things are the ones where we all chip in a little and get a huge benefit.

The Lakewood and Hazeltine Library Boards have done an excellent job of listening to community members, carefully choosing the most responsible and cost-effective path forward, and being completely transparent in communicating Why, How and What they are doing. I am proud to count them as one of 38 libraries in our Library System that all work together to share resources, materials, and expenses so that every school child has access to the resources they need to do their homework after the school doors close and every adult has a pathway to a better life.


Eli Guinnee

Executive Director, Chautauqua-

Cattaraugus Library System