Is the RCS Public Library Plan Going to Be Another RCS Swimming Pool? Poor Planning, Too Many Questions, Too Few Answers…Kill It Now Before It Gets Too Far Along and You’re Stuck with an Monkey on Your Backs!
In an age of electronic, instantaneous data transmission, an age of iPhones, smartphones, Kindles and Nooks, where even university libraries are digitizing their holdings, subscribing to digital journals available online, and newspapers are transitioning from print media to digital, we have to ask why, when most libraries are conserving resources and space, rationalizing their holdings, why is the RCS district library telling us they need twice as much space to serve a socio-econmically miserable and declining community?
The RCS community library currently occupies about 3300 sq. ft. in the municipal building; the library staff complain it’s not enough and are proposing a plan, actually the plan is moving along, to move to the old Knights of Columbus building on Main Street, Ravena, a space of 8600 sq. ft., more than double what the library now has. That’s a really big upgrade. But it gets scarier so read on.
In the present library location the library pays rent to the village but gets its utilities paid there. In the new location it’s going to have to pay to have the building upgraded, rebuilt in part, and adapted. The library will not only pay rent to the landlord, it will have to enter into a 10-year lease with that landlord in order to qualify for any state money. In addition to paying the rent, the library will have to pay for utilities and other expenses.
Where’s the $$money$$ going to come from?
What we’d like to know is who is the owner of the property the library is going to be leasing? Is it one of the local robber barons or slum lords? If the library is now paying about $1200/month to the town, what’s the lease payment? Is the landlord paying for it all? Part of the renovation work? None of it?
What studies has the library conducted to justify the necessary 2x the current space? Does the library have any utilization statistics for who uses the library, when, for what? How is the library justifying the requirment for more than twice the space?
Why is all of this necessary now, now in a time of fiscal austerity, joblessness, record unemployment, political and economic uncertainty? Does the library directly need to leave the fiction section and return to the non-fiction section? Can anyone afford this kind of spending when the school budget is doomed to failure and everyone across the state, country is cutting? Why more physical space when the trend is in the direction of electronic books?
Mr Ben Wolfe, president of the library board, stated that the library board is projecting to 5, 10, 20 years in the future to accommodate the library’s needs. My question is how on earth can they be so certain? I don’t put much stock in empty visions or crystal balls and that’s where Mr Wolf appears to be getting his double-talk. If the RCS district library can see that far in the future and accurately predict what their and the community’s needs will be, they should share their method with the federal government and apply for a Nobel prize in fortune-telling. I don’t buy it!
We’re not done yet. The district library budget goes up on the same referendum as the school budget. In addition, the library’s 2012-12 budget has to accommodate not only the relocation spending spree but also a 3% cost of living increase for its staff, increases in pension allocations, thousands in architectural and engineering fees needed for the rebuilding of the new location, and the list goes on.
When library director Judith Felsten was asked by a resident $$How Much$$ the library director tells the public, “We’re not sure what the final cost will be?” Your response should be: “Well, when you do, then we can talk.”
And where is the money coming from, she answered “fundraising,” (Bad answer! From where, who in the RCS district has any money to give?) and “Contributions in kind (translation: meaning people are expected to contribute their time and skills; a cat-in-a-sack), matching grants (translation: whatever is promised by the grant provider must be matched by the applicant, for example, state gives $100 you have to give $100), NYS Public Library Construction Grant (translation: you get this only if you commit to remaining on the property for at least 10 years, that’s why the 10-year lease).”
When pressed for more information the director was only able to say “We’re total novices…every time something comes up it’s more.” Well, that’s very encouraging.
While we don’t deny the importance of a public library in any community we have some serious doubts about this nutty plan. First of all, any such plan should be supported by numbers that support the need for more than twice the current space, and what those numbers tell the public about how the library is being used. There are no such numbers apparently. So, Good-bye! The general uncertainty of the plan is another hare-raising point; there’s no rhyme or reason to the financial sense of the proposal. It’s all very murky. Too many questions and too few convincing answers.
What is the population in the district doing? What are the needs of the community, the district? What is the socio-economic structure of the community, the district? What is the business climate in the community, the district (pretty awful, from where I’m standing)? What is the real justification for this half-baked, overly enthusiastic, very risky project.
Our advice at this point in time under these circumstances: Vote the Proposal and the Budget down. Vote NO! on the district library budget and expansion plan. It should be put on hold until more reliable facts and figures can be produced and made public!
Alternatively: Demand that the library board cough up some real concrete figures and have them published in the official newspaper for the RCS district for all to read and comment on.
Here is the email address for library director Judith Felston: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask your questions directly and please copy us with your questions and her answers. Here’s the e-mail address for RCS Community Library board president Ben Wolfe: email@example.com. Ask him directly about the plan and copy us with your questions and his answers.
But it’s really late to do something like that which should have been done months ago!
Send a link to this blog to friends, family, and elected officials. Write to your newspapers, let your voice be heard before it’s too late!
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