Spring Valley librarian on library budgets and advocacy


Though National Library Lovers Month has come to a close seemingly too early — darn it, leap year!—, supporting these safe havens for education and resources is something that one can engage in any day and any time of the year.

Brian Avery, a librarian at Finkelstein Memorial Library, spoke with The Rockland County Times about what it was like celebrating Library Advocacy Day at the New York State Capitol.

Library Advocacy Day is something that the New York Library Association organizes every year, so librarians from all over the state go up and talk to their elected representatives about what’s happening in their libraries, what they need and how those elected representatives can help,” Avery said. 

Library Advocacy Day took place on Feb. 7 this year.

He was warmed by the sense of unity as he walked through the halls seeing all the enthusiastic faces and supporters showing their spirit wearing scarves and shirts with this year’s NYLA’s theme color of navy blue. 

He said that the biggest topic of discussion was funding for libraries. 

“The NYS statutes require library funding to be at a certain level and we haven’t actually been funded at that level for over 20 years, so every year we go back and remind them that they’re not funding us as much as required to,” he said. 

According to NYLA,  “since its inception in 1991, Library Operating Aid has been underfunded by a cumulative $207.035 million relative to what is statutory under state law, with $157.035 million coming in just the last 15 years.”

The Executive Budget was released by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Jan. 16 and included a fund for library aid of just over $102 million and $34 million for library construction grants.

The supporters at the State Capitol were advocating for $147.1 million for library operating aid and $69.4 million for library construction aid. 

The construction fund allows libraries to build new facilities, which Avery said is one big topic that Finkelstein Library is very passionate about along with the budget for the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library Program (NOVELny).

“The state has historically paid for a program called NOVELny, which provides databases for public schools and public libraries and it was proposed that the state would stop funding that this year,” Avery said. 

The Executive Budget appropriated $3 million for NOVELny, though its scheduled funding-related termination is June 30. 

Avery said that one moment that stood out to him the most at the bookish gathering was when he met with a staff member from Assemblyman Kenneth Zabrowski’s office. 

“She had no idea about some of the rules that were in place that were restricting library’s ability to access the construction fund or choose who to hire and she was flabbergasted to learn that these constraints were making it harder for libraries to do their job, so it was really encouraging to see their response, see how she felt about it and how she wanted to help us serve our communities better,” he said. 

He explained that a big portion of the funding from the state is spent on shared projects between libraries such as summer reading programs and operating costs. 

To him, libraries are powerful because they are “of and by the whole people.”

“I think that libraries are a really important way of providing resources to the entire community and not just providing resources but actually giving the whole community a stake in the community,” he said. “It would be a real shame if we had to take away things from people who would benefit from them because we didn’t have the money to give them the resources they asked for.”

Avery encourages readers to reach out to their elected officials any time of the year and let them know that they are supporters of libraries to keep these safe havens alive and thriving. 

To learn more about NYLA and how you can support libraries, be sure to visit NYLA.org. 


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