Voters will help libraries if given chance
The Gloversville Public Library will soon be getting some money from the state Education Department's Library Development Division, $200,000, to fix some windows. Considering the amount and the use this shouldn't be all that remarkable, but it is, for two reasons. The state has been underfunding libraries for years, and those tall, arched, richly detailed windows are magnificent (as is most everything about the century-old masonry library ). Magnificent and in need of repair.
In fact, the grant will only allow the library to replace half of the 16 windows -- and that's with another $90,000 from a Friends of the Library fund-raising campaign and a large, anonymous donation. In addition to the windows, which are rotting, warped and don't close or open properly, there are plenty of other capital needs, including a new boiler, air conditioning and elevator for handicapped-accessibility.
Like people in most small New York communities, Gloversville residents love their library . And they showed it back in 2005 when, after seeing the city government's support drop from $155,000 to $5,000 a year, they voted to create a library district and tax themselves to make sure it survived. But there's a limit to how much can be raised locally, especially in smaller, poorer areas. They need more help from the state.
Schools get all the attention, and, until recently at least, the money. But libraries have the same basic goals -- spreading culture and enlightment and creating an informed citizenry for a democracy, as Andrew Carnegie, who provided the initial money for Gloversville 's library and many others around the nation, put it.
And unlike with schools, everyone who comes to the library is there because they want to be. Despite the widespread availability of popular entertainment, electronic gadgets and other distractions, libraries are still as popular as ever, if not more so.
If the state can't do better by them, it should at least give them a chance to seek support from voters through a state bond issue for library repair and construction. This wouldn't be the usual back-door borrowing, but a real proposal put to voters in a referendum. Other states have done it in the past, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, and voters have given their approval. We suspect that if New York did it, there's a good chance that, hard times or not, voters here would, too.