If county funding of the local library system had kept pace with inflation, the Legislature would be looking at a budget expenditure of about $80,000 annually, instead of the $45,000 used to help support the service this year.
With that in mind, Robert Conrad, director of the Richmond Memorial Library, made the case to the Human Service Committee on Monday that in the upcoming budget, the Legislature should consider a modest increase in funding of about $4,500.
Chairman Frank Ferrando indicated he thought that was a reasonable request.
"I can't speak for the entire Legislature, but for myself absolutely, I think it's really important that we have good, updated libraries available for our citizens with all the modern technology we now have available to garner information," Ferrando said.
He's interested in hearing what other members of the Legislature have to say about it.
"We're probably going to have some interesting discussion come budget time, but they're asking for $4,500 above last time, which would be the total up to around $50,000, which is still less than $1 per citizen in the county," Ferrando said.
The county funding for the library system flows through the Richmond Memorial Library and Conrad said a few years ago the county provided the library with a little more than $63,000.
While based in Batavia, the Richmond serves the entire county, especially those towns and villages in the county, such as Elba, Alexander, Bethany and Darien, without their own libraries.
Primary funding for Richmond comes from its own district, which is contiguous with the Batavia City Schools' district.
"About one-third of our cardholders live outside of the district," Conrad said. "The same is true for the other libraries in the county. We're the defacto public library of the county because we have the most available in our local history collection. We receive the grant for homebound services for senior citizens throughout the county, along with other services we provide to the entire county."
The local library service area is unique, Conrad said, in that it ensures even those people who live outside of the district receive library services. That isn't always true in other parts of the nation. For example, in Chicago, where Conrad worked for many years, citizens who didn't live in a library district received no library services.
Conrad is optimistic the funding request will be approved.
He characterized the reception he received from the committee as warm, with a discussion full of penetrating questions.
"I think the legislators generally look favorably upon libraries," he said.