As president of the Portville Free Library Board of Trustees, I am writing to declare my support for our library — and for all libraries in New York state.
Our library in Portville, like so many others, is the cornerstone of our community. We serve not only Portville, but being near the state line to the south and the county line to the east, we also have patrons from Pennsylvania and neighboring Allegany County who lack local library services.
Libraries are for everyone; they provide a safe and welcoming space for all, regardless of race or ethnicity, religion, country of origin, income or education level. Federal policies are undermining New York’s already inequitable tax structure, and the result leaves funding for local education services like public libraries under attack.
We believe that a budget is a moral document. Where we, through our elected officials, choose to spend our collective resources serves as a testament to what we value. As our elected representatives come together in Albany this winter to craft this year’s state budget, I want a document that speaks to our hopes rather than our fears, and creates policies that will benefit every New Yorker — and there is no better declaration of intent than funding our community libraries.
Libraries offer free and equal access to educational opportunities and are the primary source of internet access for many of our rural children and adults who lack the service. New Yorkers of all ages, experiences and needs turn to their local library for early literacy programs; classes in adult education and financial literacy; health groups and fitness workshops; technology assistance; English and other language classes; and many other programs and services too numerous to list here.
New York state has failed to fully fund library services for more than a decade, a period of underfunding that has withheld more than $110 million in state library aid. This has not only undermined local education opportunities, but has pushed costs onto local taxpayers.
When New York fails to fund library services, we end up with diminished services that cost more. It’s not only inefficient, it’s unconscionable.
Join me in using the online advocacy system offered by the New York Library Association, at nyla.org/advocacy, to write the governor and the State Legislature.
(Ronda S. Pollock is president of the Portville Free Library Board of Trustees.)