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Hamilton Hill branch, like the entire library system, was lacking

Sunday, January 5, 2014
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Hamilton Hill branch, like the entire library system, was lacking

To all those concerned about the closing of the Hamilton Hill library branch library [Dec. 27 Gazette], I offer a reality check.

A study was done over four years ago of the three city branches: Duane, Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill. Wonja Brucker (then assistant library director) and I (a trustee at the time) determined that there should be a consolidation of at least two of the branches (Duane and Hamilton Hill). There would be substantial savings which would allow for significant increases in hours of operation, a more pleasant facility and, equally important, full-time security for the patrons and staff.

A search was done for a suitable site and it was determined that the most accessible for both neighborhoods was the lot at 954 State St. And that, five years later, is where the new facility, combining Duane and Hamilton Hill, will be built.

Hamilton Hill was, by far, the most undesirable situation. The room was small (1,000 square feet); it was not handicapped-accessible, being on the second floor of Carver [Community Center]; it was not properly maintained by the landlord (also Carver); and it had no available parking for the patrons or staff.

One of the main reasons for the short hours (16 per week), and no evening or weekend hours, was the lack of security. On at least one occasion, a library staff person was assaulted by unruly patrons. Almost every personal car of staff members was vandalized and, on many occasions, staff members had to be escorted to and from the branch by a deputy sheriff. There has been very minimal circulation of books, the main interest being DVDs and the few computers.

In recent weeks, the library was restricted to young adults and adults. Several weeks ago, most of the DVDs were stolen. The facility was not secured adequately from the rest of the Carver Center. Consequently, because of the budget constraints imposed by the county, replacement of those DVDs is virtually impossible. Why was the earlier study ignored for years?

At this time, I cannot see any reason to create a temporary branch. Carver had closed several weeks earlier than its announcement, and there was little, if any, demonstration of dismay by the public. The library is struggling to maintain quality services in the remaining branches with a terribly inadequate budget.

Library staff members are doubling up on assignments to keep the system flowing. The trustees have been given an ultimatum to raise $50,000 outside of the budget. Services have been curtailed and the collections of books, periodicals and media are woefully short. Long reserve request lists are testimony to the diminished collections at all branches.

The best outcome for this issue would be for all elements of the community to come to the realization that libraries are critical. They are not frills, but essential in many ways. So let the politicians, the business leaders and the public express themselves positively for a new dawn for the libraries of Schenectady County.

John Karl

Schenectady

Don’t yield to Catholics on contraceptive care

Some nuns got a Catholic justice on the U.S. Supreme Court to agree with their position that providing birth control measures and contraceptives as required in the Affordable Care Act [ACA] violates their constitutional rights to freedom of religion [Jan. 2 Gazette]. What a bunch of hogwash!

The First Amendment allows one to hold any or no religious beliefs without infringement. Restrictions on behavior is in no way the same thing as restrictions on religious philosophy. Historically, if a group is the pot calling the kettle black, it is the Catholic Church, which has browbeat governments since the conversion of Constantine into enforcing church dogma and condoning genocide of those who would not yield.

Their stand on health care for employees is simply part of the ongoing Catholic predilection for forcing others to accept their religious positions. If Catholics do not want to pay for those parts of the ACA that offend their religious beliefs, then they can avoid them by hiring only Catholic workers, who will not use or request those services. They can still believe whatever they wish; the law simply prevents them from forcing those beliefs on others. Inherent in the constitutional “right to believe” is the “right not to believe.”

Using the illogic of the right not to obey the law because it conflicts with church doctrine, Jewish and Muslim employers could tell employees that they are not allowed to bring BLTs or ham sandwiches to work because it conflicts with their dietary beliefs. Perhaps you cannot take Christmas and Easter as holidays but must accept Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah instead. Shoe on the other foot might not be so appealing!

I love Thomas Jefferson. Inscribed on the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial is a quote: “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” This was in response to the criticism from Christian clergy to his “Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom.” In my opinion, if religious institutions want to have input or influence over laws and governmental policies, they should have to give up their immunity from taxation, which I have always thought had nothing to do with the right to hold any set of religious values and in no way infringes on any belief system and should be abolished anyhow.

So many religions: They cannot all be right, but they can all be wrong.

Frank Elfland

Charlton

Think about where your food comes from

January, in so many ways, is a month of fresh starts and new beginnings. Most of us have made our resolutions: to lose weight, exercise, spend more time with family, etc. Many of us will put these well-intentioned resolutions to the side before the month is over.

But what if you had a resolution that required a commitment of only one week? Would you be able to keep it? What kind of change could a one-week resolution have on your life or your perspective of the world? The answer is quite a bit.

Here is the resolution I am asking you to make: For one week, stop to consider the people who make your meals possible. Don’t focus on factories or grocery stores, don’t focus on whether the food you eat is healthy. Think beyond these things — to the farmers, the men and women who grew the wheat in your morning muffin, the corn in your tortilla chips, the beef in your burger. You don’t need to spend time debating the method of farming — conventional or organic, large or small scale — you just need to take time to picture the people.

If every one of us took just a moment to stop and wonder who raised the food we eat, what kind of impact would that have? Regardless if your dinner consists of chicken nuggets and French fries or baked chicken and mashed potatoes, proud farming families cared for and raised the food you are eating.

When you begin to focus on the people who make your meals possible, your perspective changes a little. Take one moment before a meal to imagine the faces, the hands, the hearts of the nation’s farmers. When you do so, you begin to connect to the food they worked hard to raise and harvest, closer to the animals they care for and the land they tend.

As the market manager for Schenectady Greenmarket, I’d like to ask you to make this one-week resolution. Stop by the market this Sunday, or any Sunday, inside Proctors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You will get to meet the many dedicated individuals and families that raise, create and provide delicious, local, personal food.

Jennifer M. Jennings

Schenectady

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