“Earlier this month at a meeting of the Select Committee on Libraries, we were fortunate to be addressed by a number of library advocates, including Tom Galante, preident and CEO of the Queens Library System. He and other speakers made the point that state funding for libraries has declined significantly over the years, and I believe we must take steps to reverse these losses,” Addabbo said in a statement.
Addabbo sits on the Senate Select Committee on Libraries as well as the Joint Senate Conference Committee on Education – the panel which will negotiate a final legislative budget agreement for school funding, library support and other educational initiatives.
According to Queens Library estimates, the system has lost $3.8 million in state funding since 2008.
And in recent years, budget cuts have forced many Queens libraries to cut weekend service hours as well as cut down on the free programming offered.
Addabbo said he has seen how much these changes have caused hardships for families with schoolchildren and seniors, and because of that, he wants to beef up support and increase funding.
One of Addabbo's bills, which aims to give libraries greater access to funding sources, was recently was approved by the full Senate. The bill would allow public libraries to compete for $3 million in grants through the Employment Preparation Program (EPE) in order to provide adult literacy education. This funding is now only earmarked for schools and Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) programs.
“Our libraries are already providing these services, and should be eligible to access this funding pool,” said Addabbo.
The opportunities for education, job outreach services, access to computers and language programs are features that the Senator says that helps libraries play an integral part in the community.
“I often hold office hours at libraries throughout my Senate district, because our libraries are, indeed, a reflection of our communities at large,” he said. “They need funding not only to continue providing a wide variety of traditional services, but to expand further into offering more e-books and exploring other technological innovations.”
The senator is also co-sponsoring three other bills aimed at assisting libraries. The first bill would exempt libraries from having to pay the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax, also known as the “MTA payroll tax,” which was already lifted for public and private schools.
“Libraries, like schools, are educational institutions, and deserve equitable treatment with regard to the MTA payroll tax,” said Addabbo.
The second would enable any Board of Cooperative Educational Services to enter into contracts with public libraries to provide high-speed telecommunications service the libraries may be unable to afford on their own. The bill would essentially help libraries to move forward with plans for e-book technology and other state-of-the-art services.
The third bill Addabbo is co-sponsoring would encourage schools to provide instruction in digital literacy, in an effort to better prepare students to use existing and new technology, along with the Internet, to enhance their education.
“This legislation would help to supplement and support the efforts of school librarians, who are already attempting to help students develop their digital literacy skills,” Addabbo said.
As it stands now, both the Senate and Assembly budget resolutions approved on March 13 include funding for libraries over and above the amount proposed in Governor Cuomo’s 2012-2013 Executive Budget.
It is now up to the Joint Senate Conference Committee on Education to negotiate and recommend a final library funding plan for the coming fiscal year.
The deadline between the Senate and Assembly to reach negotiations on the state budget is April 1.