Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Hands off our books!
• January 7, 2009

Where can you go for free entertainment, unlimited education and valuable career advice in these troubling times? The library. But only if its doors are open. While budgets cuts are ricocheting through nearly all public agencies these days, there is good reason to keep libraries out of the budget-cutters' crosshairs: people need them now more than ever.

"This isn't the time to cut library services," John Smith, comptroller for the Westchester Library System, told the Editorial Board. "The reality is that during tough times, people use the library more. They don't have disposable income to go to Barnes & Noble to buy books, and during these times the library is used for a lot of other things."

Many of those "other things" are especially necessary now, as attendance at Westchester Library System's recent career-counseling workshops shows; they were so popular that many job seekers had to be turned away.

Nonetheless, libraries are very much a target of budget-cutters, who face tough choices at every level of delivering necessary services; lately even cops and firefighters have been getting pink slips. Gov. David Paterson's proposed 2009 budget calls for a 20 percent cut in state library funding. The money goes to library networks such as the Westchester Library System, the Mid-Hudson Library System and the Ramapo Catskills Library System. At the local level, libraries are in the bull's eye as well.

Closing the book
In White Plains, Mayor Joseph Delfino recently ordered the library to close on Sundays as part of a plan to cut $400,000 from the library's $6 million budget. Delfino is trying to cut $4 million from all city agencies in order to balance the city's $161 million budget. Surprisingly, the library, which comprises 2 percent of the city's budget, is asked to shoulder 10 percent of that cut.

"We feel that closing a library (causes) disproportionate hurt in a bad economy to people who can least afford the loss of service in our community," said library President Julie Trelstad. There was a disagreement between Delfino and the library's board of trustees over which day of the week to close - the trustees wanted to close on the slowest day, Friday, but the mayor wanted Sunday to avoid renegotiating with the library's civil service employees.

All three branches of the Yonkers Public Library began closing on Sundays in December, as its library board struggled to comply with Mayor Phil Amicone's directive to find $550,000 worth of cuts in the $8.7 million library budget. "It's ironic that this year we're on track to have our busiest year ever," Yonkers library Deputy Director Edward Falcone said when the cuts were announced. "It looks like we won't be able to maintain the momentum that we worked so hard to achieve."

Pain reaches far
Cities aren't the only ones feeling the pinch. In North Castle, the library is shortening its hours at both the Armonk and North White Plains branches, and cutting back on programs and materials. Similarly, the Finkelstein Memorial Library, in Spring Valley, has shortened its hours.

In Greenburgh, where a lovely $20 million library opened last month, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is worried that those who are shut out from neighboring town's libraries on Sundays will overwhelm the new Greenburgh Public Library.

He is proposing that the Westchester Library system either reimburse towns that keep their libraries open on Sundays (unlikely, given the library system's own budget woes) or coordinate a schedule that could keep libraries open on Sundays on a rotating basis. He also proposes a non-residents service fee, though that seems particularly un-library like.

Finding ways for neighboring libraries to work together may be a better solution than simply cutting hours. The benefits that libraries provide - from the educational to the vocational, including all-important free Internet access - loom even larger in an economy such as ours. Cutting libraries truly cuts at bone, and strikes at the least among us.


Anonymous said...

" ... (workshops) were so popular that many job seekers had to be turned away." It shouldn't be expected that libraries handle career counseling in the first place. Westchester County has a complete department available to all just a couple of miles down the street in White Plains.

Anonymous said...

"(Feiner) also proposes a non-residents service fee, though that seems particularly un-library like." Absolutely ridiculous! Un-library like, to say the least, and it would be an administrative nightmare to execute. Please, Mr. Feiner, you're not the supervisor for the library. Take care of matters that you are paid to supervise - roadway maintenance, code enforcement, tax collection, etc.

hal samis said...

What Mr. Feiner is doing is publicizing the Greenburgh Library so that his worst fears will be recognized. If no one had the idea before to use the Greenburgh Library, he certainly has planted the seed.

Anonymous said...

Well you don't want others to use the library because it will cost more to fully staff the library on Sunday what's so hard to come up with a resolution .

Close the library on Sunday .
Everyone else is doing it why not Greenburgh unless you want to be a glutton for punishment.

The residents would have to pay the extra expense in keeping the library open to satisfy the outsiders .

Could this solution be so hard to come by.

Knowing you Paul you always want to seem like you are the good guy so you will keep the library opened BUT again it will be at our expense.

People are loosing their jobs,their homes and whatever funds they had put away and you are looking for ways to be a nice guy to keep the library opened seven days a week because you feel the homeless and the jobless will have a place to go.

Your brains have been shrinking for the past twenty years but now you are completley gone.

If the other municipalities are closeing their doors on Sunday is that not enough for you to follow suit.

Then again everytime you stick your nose into the library matters it costs us the taxpayers more and more money.
You cannot run a town so how can you run the library.
Let the library board make the decision to close on Sundays but if they want to burden the taxpayers for more money then you should step in.

Anonymous said...

Good job for Mayor Delfino.

Saving money is his game not spending like Feiner.
To him the library is a beautiful work of art so it must stay opened for seven days a week. Who is he to charge outsiders a fee ???
Will he ask for proof of income????
Will you ask the age of patrons?????
If you think that you can run the library as you do the centers you are mistaken.
You have fooled us all for all these years now we had enough.
If other towns are closing their libraries there has to be a good reason but here in Greenburgh there is no one who is or has been reasonable..

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,

Please remove the word "library" from your vocabulary.

Warmest regards,
The Citizens of Greenburgh

Anonymous said...

What the heck does the "Hands off our books!" mean?

hal samis said...

Look, let's put things in perspective:

Our new 46,000 foot Library should be open on Sunday. The Trustees might have some framework of a case for closing on Sunday when it was at Town Hall. Not so, with the near completion of the new building on Tarrytown Road.

Feiner and the Town Board may not even have control of what the new Board of Trustees do. Five trustees (out of seven) were added in 2008, One is a neighbor of departing President Howard Jacobs -- he is not part of Feiner's camp. One was appointed in the early Fall and his slant is still unclear to observers. Two starting in 2009 made scattered appearances at Trustees meetings but were not allowed to speak or given copies of what was being discussed. The final member I have not met. Bottom line is that I, or others, don't have any basis to say that the Library Board of Trustees is or is not Feiner's library team.

Until that becomes apparent, the first Trustees meeting with the new Trustees is January 15; Feiner and the Town Board have no say when the Library is open or closed despite $50,000 of the Library's 2009 operating budget being put in escrow to see what happens.

Mayor Delfino is not the example to follow in Greenburgh. In his own way, he is a Feiner in training. Libraries should be available to the resident who pay for them for as long as there is still a hard copy world; something that will not follow when the real Library of Tomorrow arrives. Whereas I believe that today's is not your parent's Library, Greenburgh residents did agree to pay over $20 million as though it were. They should be entitled to use it in its heyday, at least the first year.

Continuing to speak without thinking because it now suits him to appear as the savior of libraries everywhee is Supervisor Feiner. That this new pose makes residents laugh never ruffles him so sure is he that if he still sneezes, someone will rush to say god bless you.

So Mr. Feiner says the Westchester Library System should dig into its pockets and kick in money to keep libraries open. Of course, in the same article that Feiner runs his mouth tagging along as a hitchhiker, is the concern that NYS will be cutting support to the WLS. Feiner must believe that, like his problem at home, all entities must have a Reserve Fund that can be raided for such purpose. Does Feiner think the WLS been skimming overdue fines?

I don't think the Town Board punished the Greenburgh Library in its budget request for 2009. In fact, I wish they had escrowed even more to exert what little control the Town has over an independent, appointed Library Board that is responsible to no one in how it disburses $3.4 million. If the Library stays open, they will get their escrow released. In the meantime, in a tough economy, maybe patrons will have to stand in longer checkout lines and maybe the Library will have to order 7 copies of a bestseller instead of 8 or 9. But as for closing, no one except the idiot in White Plains wants that. Nor do residents of Greenburgh want Feiner pointing the searchlight at Greenburgh and bragging to all of Westchester that if you need a library on Sunday, come here.

Anonymous said...

Hal -
Why do you think Feiner shouldn't point a spotlight at our library?
Doing so will fit well with his plan to destroy the library. He will point to the overcrowded condition on a Sunday, rant that the Library Board failed in its duty to provide adequate space and note that the State Education Department has called the library inadequate since 1968. He will then question why the Board downsized the library plans, insuring its continuing inadequacy for the next 40 years. He'll then finish his rant by pointing out the Library has refused every one of his offers to help and they deserve every complaint they get.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Yep. Blogger @ 5:54 has it just about right.

hal samis said...

Dear 5:54,
You don't seriously expect to get there a serious response to your hypothesis, do you?

How about my hypothesis. May 2005the Referendum gives permission to the Town Board to bond the purchase of a computer for every resident of Greenburgh. The Town gets a great deal on a large order, 46,000 computers @ $500 each or $23 million (the real cost of what the Trustees showed to residents as the Library of the Future had that ever been delivered). Thereafter, the residents of unincorporated save $3,400,000 and increasing each year of annual operating expenses or starting year 1 at $74 per resident. This money is used to wire the entire Town so that everyone will have access to the internet. After the first year with the wiring in place, the annual cost drops to a few dollars per household, not per average assessment.

Without the building, the Town sells the entire parcel to a developer which brings in around $10 to $12 million and new jobs. Thereafter, the parcel brings in a respectable amount of property taxes; this event alone staunches the Town's decline in ratables.

With Libraries in their backpacks, students can do their homework, residents can read the newspaper or download movies on demand: wherever and whenever they want, even on Sundays or holidays.

And just for stocking stuffers, the employee salary cost comprising $1.5 million of the $3.4million annual price tag, 31% of this or $460,000 set aside for benefits provides every resident with a $10 tax refund.

Time to get off the ride on the Reading Railroad. Had you voted no, find $20 million in Community Chest.

Yep yep, I got it just right.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hal -
Don't fall into the same trap as Feiner, even in jest.
Bonded debt should be reserved for items with useful lives longer than the loans used to purchase them.
Computers have a 3-5 year useful life at best - the Town is still paying for computers it purchased shortly after Mr Feiner took office - and storing the carcasses because they represent the collateral for the bondholders.
Borrowing for operating expenses is a Feiner idea than raising taxes to actually pay for necessary items, but it guarantees our children will be living elsewhere...

madoffville said...

its outrageous that the town library's main function is providing dvds and best sellers.

the town should have gotten a netflix (or walmart) dvd account for anyone who wanted one at a discount rate - instead we are storing and cataloging and hearting and cooling dvds - what a waste.

now we learn that the town is storing old computers because they are the collateral for bonds!

someone please file an involuntary chapter 11 petition against the town that is run like madoffville.

no worries said...

Don't fret 11:10,
Heard Netflix on financial news today talking about how DVD/Blue-ray being obsolete in 5 years. All videos will be streaming downloads to your new Internet capable TV's!
The TV's have started rolling out.

What will we replace the DVD's with in the library?

samis was right said...

lets store them in howard jacobs' house.

library of the future my behind!!

ed krauss said...

Paranoid personality, Paul Feiner must be thinking,"I can't win. I come up with ideas to keep the library open on Sundays and ways to pay for it like, 'charging outsiders'for use of our library, and/or the WLS for keeping open."

"I come up with all these GREAT ideas and anonymous bloggers blast me.You'd think these plebeians should know after two+ decades in office, outsmarting them over eight elections that they can't outthink me. What's a poor guy to do? The only time I win is when I run, so screw them. I know they can't stand me. When you're on top, you build up enemies, and I've been on top for a long time, so my list is long."

When you're right, you're right Paul...except when you're wrong.

Watch your butt. Another enemy, Andy Spano, said, do away with Town government, he could run Greenburgh more efficiantly than it's being run now. That's you, my man. And with Andy, who has a lot more of a campaign war chest than even you, and an army of people to set against you. But always remember: paranoids do have real enemies, and pathological liars sometimes do tell the truth.

I hit on two of your most pronounced attributes and all because I spent a few hours at the library two Sundays ago.

Keep'um coming, but supply us all with shovels.

Anonymous said...

Samis, why do you correct everyone?
For someone who writes so much it's just regurgitation of hate, stupidity and involuntary corrective actions. Do the town, blog and
society a favor, get a real life.
Sick of the same ___

ed krauss said...

To: Paul
From: ED
Subject: J/N letter to the editor 1/14/09

First, I still don't understand how with the J/N letters policy of one every 30days, how you get so many in, in a 30 day period.

Back to my original reason for memoing you.

Please sit down. Please have a sublingual nitroglycerin pill handy. Please have the Greenburgh EMS on your speed dial.


If the Greenburgh library wants complete autonomy and a say over their finances,ABSOLUTE DECISION MAKING POWER, they must opt to become a LIBRARY DISTRICT.

I've heard for years, that is what they WANT to do, yet, in all these years, I'm not aware of them even getting as far as first base. They should now, with a brand new board, "abdicate or deficate.'

Despite this agreement, I hope you understand my feelings for you, professionally, only get worse.