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Journal News, The (Westchester County, NY)

April 17, 2003

Libraries rally against proposed cuts in state aid

Author: Eugene Driscoll; Staff
The Journal News

Section: News
Page: A4

Index Terms:
Patent Trader

Estimated printed pages: 2

Article Text:

By Eugene Driscoll

The Patent Trader

MOUNT KISCO - Library officials from all over Westchester County descended on the village library Monday to protest a proposed $13.3 million cut in state aid.

Holding signs reading "Libraries, the People's University" and "Libraries Boost Student Achievement," approximately 70 people crowded in front of the Mount Kisco Public Library at 100 Main St. to protest the cuts, which are included in Gov. George Pataki's proposed state budget.

Monday's demonstration marked the first time in 13 years library officials organized a protest, according to Amy Small, spokeswoman for the Westchester Library System in Ardsley. Speakers urged residents to contact state lawmakers and oppose the cuts.

Gilly Caulo, 9, a third-grader, said he hasn't missed a story hour at the Katonah Library in six years. "My little sister took her first steps in the children's room," he said.

Katonah resident Cynthia Cuthbertson was at the rally to support the Katonah Library, a place she visits twice a day to conduct research.

The library is "terribly important to me," she said. "I never would have finished my thesis without it."

Cuthbertson held a sign that read: "When libraries aren't valued, civilization dies."

"What happens to a culture that doesn't value it's own history, it's own culture?" she said. "It falls apart. It becomes superficial and hollow."

Maurice Freedman of Mount Kisco, director of the Westchester Library System, said now is not the time to make cuts.

"Whenever the economy gets bad, library use goes up," he said. "Circulation is up. The number of reference requests are up. The politicians want to cut us. Libraries are working harder. We must not allow these cuts to occur."

Thirty-eight libraries are members of the Westchester Library System. Library officials said Pataki's cuts would severely impact library services and result in staff layoffs and reduced hours of operation.

State aid to libraries is approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget, "but we need it," said Sybil Canaan, director of the Field Library in Peekskill. "It is critical for us to get the word out."

Ken Brown, spokesman for the state's budget office, said libraries in New York are well-funded.

"New York libraries rank second in the nation in spending per capita and 11th in direct state aid," he said.

Brown said "enacting a responsible budget creates jobs" and will allow the governor to "invest in the future" of libraries.

Most of the protesters Monday were employees of local libraries, including Mount Kisco, Chappaqua, North Castle and Katonah.

Libraries received $88.9 million in state aid in 2001 and 2002.

The proposed budget seeks to cut 15 percent, lowering the state aid amount to $75.5 million. That would bring the libraries back to the amount of aid received in 1993, according to Small.

Copyright (c) The Journal News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: wst2003041712184214