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Board Says Library Could Close, Move Without Financial Support

P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

It is projected that the James Prendergast Library (“Prendergast”) will close within the next three or four years. During this time period the library will be forced to make extreme cuts that may include relocation and the sale of the building we have occupied since our inception in 1891. The James Prendergast Library is in dire financial straits and its current financial support cannot sustain the library.

FINANCIAL HARDSHIP

In 2017, the city of Jamestown cut the library’s funding from $350,000 to $100,000 (71%), and in 2018 another $50,000 was cut (50%). As a direct result of the financial cuts from city funding, state funding will be cut as follows. As per Public Library Law, the library’s State Aid will cut by 25% in 2019. In 2020, state aid of $111,000 will be completely eliminated. The state and city funding in 2016 made up 38% of our funding. In 2019, state and city funding are only12.5%. By 2020, that percentage drops to 6%.

Putting this into perspective: Nationally, Prendergast is ranked 9,034 out of 9,211 in terms of local tax support. Prendergast Library is ranked in the bottom 2% in the country for local governmental support. In the state of New York, Prendergast is ranked 748 out of 756 for local governmental support.

WHERE DOES THE REST OF THE FUNDING COME FROM?

Pictured are oil paintings that used to hang in the Fireplace Room at the James Prendergast Library. P-J file photo by Gavin Paterniti

¯ 46% comes from the library’s endowment which has been made possible by the sale of a portion of the permanent art collection.

¯ 12% comes directly from donations from our kind supporters.

¯ 12% comes from grants from local foundations. Grant funding is often given for specific purposes detailed within each grant application.

¯ 6% comes from taxes through the city of Jamestown which are not secure.

¯ 3% of our funding comes from the year-round book sale.

P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

¯ 1% is derived from library events, such as the Prendergast Run for Literacy.

While the library and the Board of Trustees are extremely thankful for the support we do receive, the predicament that Prendergast Library is in, is not of its own making.

HOW HAVE WE ADAPTED THUS FAR

Seven years ago the library employed 36 employees. Today the library employs 14 employees.

The library has suffered a 64% reduction in staffing over the past 7 years yet continues to provide an abundance of services. The staffing reduction has required the remaining staff to be able to perform any and all functions the community requires. The library has consistently sought to make its finances go as far as possible in order to help as many people as possible.

SERVICES

The library cannot charge anyone for its services pursuant to New York State Library Law. As libraries evolve to meet the current community’s needs, Prendergast strives to offer a multitude of resources to the general public. The library is much more than a room with shelves and books. It is a community center focused on community growth, learning, and providing a safe haven for many constituents.

The library is a safe location for at risk children, teens and others. The library assists unemployed residents with job searches and resume building, and the ability to apply for jobs online which is required by most organizations today. Computer classes are offered to teach technology skills associated with many modern jobs.

The library is a warm place for those who may be cold during the winter. This summer, 1,105 children received free lunches at the library through the YMCA lunch program. Afternoon snacks were provided to 1,777 children through the library’s partnership with 5 & 2 Ministries. Many of those children would not have eaten at all during the day if the library was no longer open.

The library provides programing five days a week in the Makerspace, where people of all ages can learn about technology, create and have fun learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION

Without a prompt change in finances the library will be forced to reduce or eliminate programing. The Makerspace, which has provided STEM programming for 7,259 visitors since opening in 2017, will be forced to close.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP

The future of the library is in the hands of this community.

The James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees needs to hear what the library means to you. We will be holding a series of community conversations on Wednesday, October 23 at 3:30 PM and Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 PM. We want to continue to serve the community; so let’s work together to make sure this jewel of the community is here for our descendants just as our ancestors did for us.

Sincerely,

James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees: Joni Blackman, Lynn Warner, Kris Denslow, Micki McCray, Maggie Scorse, Ned Lindstrom, Michael A. Corey, Robert S. Hewitt, Frank Corapi, Lori Fabritius, Dan Hickman.

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