LITTLE VALLEY - The Memorial Library of Little Valley will have to really ratchet up bake sales this coming year to meet their bill payments. The Cattaraugus-Little Valley School District voters, for the first time in memory, voted down the $5,000 increase the library requested this year.
"The increase," according to MargaretPincoski, Memorial Library Board of Trustees treasurer, "was only to cover increased operating costs, not for any special projects."
Libraries all over the state are feeling the pinch.
"We didn't request any more of an increase than many other libraries,'' Pincoski added.
Library Director Gretchen Taft explained that funding for the library is not part of the school tax.
"The school just helps us out by including the library allocation in residents' school tax statements. They basically collect the money for us," she said.
Partial support for the library comes from the Village and Town of Little Valley, and the towns of Napoli and Mansfield. That support must be requested each year by the library. The library system contributes some funding, but it is most often for specific usages, like book acquisitions. Additional support comes from the annual fundraising campaign, and, of course, by the fund raising events typical of libraries.
"We park cars for gun shows, hold bake sales, sell cookbooks, and raffle anything anyone gives us," stated Taft. "One of our better events is our Christmas in July, where we raffle over 125 items donated by loyal supporters."
But these efforts still fall short of keeping pace with rising costs. Bake sales bring only a couple hundred dollars. Although organizers were pleased that the recent used book sale netted the library $325, it is small change compared to a winter heating bill.
The recent addition to the library almost doubled its size. While it made more services possible, and included a new community room for groups who needed space for meetings, the increase in utilities was proportionate.
As a result of the vote, the board's executive committee met recently to figure out where to cut expenses for the rest of the year. They were able to trim a little more than half of the deficit, and will have to cover the rest by taking some from their small savings account.
"The problem is," said Taft, "our request has always been approved, so we assumed we would be covered."
When the library board originally discussed the amount of increase to request, they had thought they might be able to put some of it toward an automation system. That plan was quickly tabled as the operating costs continued to rise.
But an automated system is becoming something the library cannot table much longer. Rosemarie Grainer, board member and frequent library volunteer, stated "CCLS (Cattaraugus-Chautauqua Library System) used to bar code new acquisitions and make catalog cards for us. Now that they've stopped doing it for us - partly due to their own staffing and budget priorities - we have to do this ourselves. This, in turn, takes time away from other services we offer."
Grainer said the cost of automating is relatively small, perhaps "$5,000 to $6,000 for the software and equipment." Pincoski added, "Finding a student intern to handle the bulk of the conversion would add a few more thousand."
The benefits of an automated system are obvious. "People can check online to see if we have a book and whether or not it's checked out," Taft noted. "This would help our interlibrary loan contribution to the system and community. If people don't know we have it, they don't ask for it."
"I'm a big fan of the old card catalog," admitted Grainer. "But if we don't keep up with technology, we'll lose more and more patrons."
Taft is genuinely concerned about the prospect of having to cut any kind of service. "This library is more vital than ever to the community," she noted. "So much of what we offer is needed by people caught in a bad economy." The library provides a private room for GED classes to meet twice a week, as well a space for other small groups that can't afford to pay a fee. "Our public computers are essential for those who don't have them in an age where you are required to submit job applications online, or apply for unemployment," added Taft.
Taft also said low income individuals provided with safe-link phones "must apply for and renew them online. They come to the library to do this."
For those on a budget, borrowing a book by their favorite author or a DVD to watch doesn't cost anything (unless they aren't returned on time). "Reference books for building and home repair are becoming more in demand," said Taft, "as well as hobby and craft ideas for mothers and grandparents trying to entertain young children."
"With summer here, children can take advantage of the summer reading program we offer," added Taft.
To keep services intact, fund raising is even more important. "We can only hope people will respond positively to our annual fund drive letters," said Taft. "And if a few people want to put the library on a short path to automation, we wouldn't mind that at all."