In addition to providing traditional services and educational resources, libraries provide free computer and internet access. In rural areas, libraries can be the only source of internet access for some people. With more information being disseminated online than in print and more demands placed on the public to communicate online, people who do not have online access are at a severe disadvantage. Fortunately, libraries have recognized these barriers and have adjusted their operations and programs to help ensure the community has that access. Very often, the computers are the busiest places in the library. School-aged children utilize the computers to complete schoolwork and research. Adults use it for career help including updating a resume or applying for work. Because the libraries are so accessible and are often open after 5 p.m., it is sometimes easier for a job applicant to access technology at a library than a job search center. Career assistance is a critical service libraries provide and has a direct impact on improving a person’s quality of life.
Our libraries are also integral to K-12 students especially during the summer months. Every year libraries across the state host a Summer Reading Program that encourages kids to read when school lets out in June through the end of August. This program not only encourages leisurely reading which allows kids to explore topics and learning at their own pace but helps prevent what educators call the 'summer slide'--a loss of academic progress during the summer months. Every year, my office hosts a summer reading challenge which encourages kids and families to use their local library for this challenge. I am always impressed when I meet the families and young students who take the time to participate. In some cases, kids and families who participate would not have access to reading material without their local libraries.
Thankfully, library aid is one of those budget items that most Upstate legislators agree on. This year, the enacted budget increased library operating aid by $1 million for a total of $96.6 million. This funding helps libraries with operational costs and programming. Additionally, this year's budget increased the amount of construction dollars available to libraries to $34 million which can be used for building renovations and other facility upgrades. Maintaining the buildings and facilities is a costly endeavor but critical to the future of our libraries and to the next generation of patrons.
In addition to increased funding, the state also created a new law that enables those filing income taxes to make a donation to the "Love Your Library Fund." For the first time this year, residents filing both corporate or personal income taxes have been offered the opportunity on the state income tax forms to donate to this fund. All money collected by the state according to the law will be put into this fund that will assist in programming and operating expenses associated with the Summer Reading Program. This type of tax check off provides an easy way for those filing to donate to a worthy cause. Senator Patty Ritchie who chairs the library committee in the Senate sponsored this bill in the Senate and I was pleased to support it in the Assembly last year.
According to the New York State Department of Education, more than half of all New Yorkers carry a library card. Supporting libraries benefits young and old and those from all demographics. They are important to our communities, empower individuals and change lives. If you have any questions or comments regarding these or other state issues, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by email at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.