Cutbacks force Canajoharie Library to close on Mondays
CANAJOHARIE Patrons of the Canajoharie Library and Arkell Museum will feel the pinch of budget cuts for the first time next month.
Starting in January, the facility will be closed Mondays, breaking its seven-day-a-week schedule for the first time in years.
“It was difficult,” said librarian Leah LaFera, “but we’re making the best of it.”
Back in June, library officials asked Canajoharie property owners for $100,000 in extra funding. LaFera explained that state aid and interest earned on the endowment declined rapidly with the economy and the public money was needed just to maintain employees, programs and an up-to-date collection of books.
Roughly 55 percent of area taxpayers are library card holders, so she was very surprised when voters rejected the proposed tax by a 2-1 margin.
“There are a lot of good feelings toward the library,” she said, “but it obviously wasn’t enough.”
In just a few months she had to cut $100,000 out of the tentative 2013 budget, bringing it down to $500,000. Closing the facility on Mondays takes care of about $7,000 a year in employee wages, plus a bit in heating and electricity, “but it’s not nearly enough,” she said.
Narrowing the funding gap was painful, especially for a lifelong fan of literature like LaFera. For about 15 years the library spent $21,000 a year on new books, DVDs, e-books and all the things libraries are known for. In the aftermath of the failed vote she had to cut that budget to just $6,000.
“I’m a librarian,” she said, “ordering new books was my favorite part of the job.”
Under the new budget she can afford only to keep up with best sellers, shrinking the library’s “New Release” shelf dramatically and generating some complaints.
Programs were also cut. One in particular raised a public outcry: Story time was a local favorite, but it cost the library $6,500 a year in employee wages. When it was cut, one young mother and village resident was so sad she volunteered to read herself.
Wednesday morning, a stream of happy children and their mothers came through the library door, many greeting Leah by name, all ready to enjoy some story time.
“It’s one of the advantages of volunteering,” she said. “People get more involved and have a sense of ownership.”
In the months of budget cuts, many of those who voted “yes” to the proposed library tax formed a volunteer group and plan to throw two fundraisers for the library next year.
It’s money the library needs if LaFera wants to buy much beyond the new Tom Clancy.
Also taking some major cuts is the Arkell Museum side of the building. Curator Diane Forsberg led an impromptu tour Wednesday morning, showing off their sizable collection of classic American art accumulated by Beech-Nut founder Bartlett Arkell.
“He really integrated art into marketing,” she said, “He wanted people to know his food was made right among the farmers, not in big dirty cities.”
The high, bright galleries are filled with paintings of rolling landscapes that when associated with a food company evoke a feeling of health and trust.
Such artists as Gilbert Stuart, Edmund Tarbell and Albert Bierstadt are represented.
“We have 21 works of Winslow Homer,” she said.
There is plenty of space for temporary exhibits, but budget cuts have put those on hold.
“We’re OK, because we have so many treasures in our permanent collection,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. We still need money.”
In the future, the library may ask for another funding vote if directors sense more public support, but there are no definite plans.