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NIOGA Library System

August 11, 2022 - 4:20pm

Business is booming this summer at Genesee County’s six public libraries, which are having to adjust their budgets to account for rising costs of materials – especially when it comes to eBooks.

Two local librarians – Kim Gibson of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield and Diana Reding of Corfu Public Library – joined Thomas Bindeman and Lisa Erickson, officials with the Lockport-based Nioga Library System, at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting earlier this week to submit a request for funding and update lawmakers on library activities.

The county appropriates funds to each one of the six libraries to support the purchase of materials such as computers, books, music, movies and magazines. For 2023, the libraries are asking for $41,680 (the same amount as last year), which represents about 13 percent of their cumulative budgets.

Broken down by library, the dollar amounts are as follows:

  • Byron-Bergen Public Library, $4,570 requested, $32,780 materials budget, 13.94 percent;
  • Corfu Public Library, $3,500 requested, $16,255 materials budget, 21.53 percent;
  • Haxton Memorial Library, $3,200 requested, $10,000 materials budget, 32 percent;
  • Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion, $1,950 requested, $14,700 materials budget, 13.27 percent;
  • Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, $22,210 requested, $182,210 materials budget, 12.19 percent;
  • Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy, $6,250 requested, $62,000 materials budget, 10.08 percent.

The bulk of funding for the libraries comes from the residents of their municipalities. In the case of Corfu, Hollwedel, Richmond and Woodward, their budgets are put to a public vote. With Haxton and B-B, the town/village provide most of the funding at this point, but progress is being made toward changing the designation of those libraries to enable a public vote.

Bindeman said libraries are being challenged by increased costs for transportation – “Our fuel expenses are up by $19,000 this year,” he said – and for eBooks, a popular reading option.

“eBooks are costly to libraries,” he said. “People can go online, or they can go online at the library and download them. A consumer could go online and possibly get a book for 15 to 20 bucks, but the library’s cost for the same book might be 80 to 150 dollars.”

He said it’s what publishers and authors call “intellectual content” that drives up the price.

“Publishers and the authors feel that if a library gets it, they're getting ripped off because it's in the electronic world. And they feel once it gets on the internet, people will lift the book and all that,” he said. “And plus, normally if a consumer buys an eBook, he or she will only read it once or twice. And they see if a library buys it, it's going to have multiple uses.

“So, they're going to lose money on that, and that's why they charge so much. Also, we really don't own the book. It's only a lease for two to three years.”

He said electronic publishers “control the agenda” and it’s hurting the library system.

“We really don't have much voice. Because eBooks cost more for libraries, that means we won't be able to buy as many titles (books in print),” he noted. “Sometimes, it's kind of counterproductive to whatever they're thinking.”

Gibson and Reding used terms such as “amazing” and “come full circle” as they described how their libraries have bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic regulations that severely limited onsite interaction.

“We're getting back to pre-COVID levels -- getting our hours back to pre-COVID hours and getting staff and all that back to normal, whatever normal might be,” said Bindeman, who has been with Nioga for more than 40 years, the last 17 as the system’s director.

He said the Genesee libraries appreciate the county’s funding, understanding that government entities are facing similar financial challenges.

For more about the Nioga Library System, a non-profit cooperative library system that supports the 21 independent public libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, go to www.niogalibrary.org.

September 2, 2020 - 2:14am

Utilization of public libraries is about to take off, mirroring what happened following the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the housing industry crashed, banks faltered and the stock market plummeted.

That’s how Bob Conrad, director of the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, sees it, and he expressed those views and more on Monday during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

Conrad said the peak year for public libraries in the United States and this county was 2010 as Americans responded to the economic downturn.

“And we’re in the midst of another one,” he said, noting that library services are in greater demand due to the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accompanied by directors from five other Genesee County libraries and Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System, Conrad asked legislators to not reduce their annual financial support of these institutions.

“Please keep funding the library (at the 2019 level) and we will do what we can on our end to keep the facilities open … and maintain funding from our primary funders,” Conrad said, adding that Genesee County’s contribution amounts to about 10 percent of the what the libraries spend on materials.

Per the libraries’ written report, “County funds are earmarked for library materials only, so the money will go towards books and other resources to help children learn to read, to help people get through hard times, and to help people develop skills and find jobs.”

County Manager Matt Landers revealed that the libraries will receive $41,680 for 2020, but couldn’t guarantee that figure for 2021. The amount will depend upon budget proposals submitted by county department heads (and ultimately approved); outside agencies such as the libraries will be considered after that.

Richmond Memorial Library, by far the largest of the six Genesee County facilities, receives about half of the county funding, which is distributed according to a formula based on service population, circulation and the amount of spending on materials.

Bindeman reported that the Nioga Library System of 21 libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties is facing a 24-percent cut in funding from New York State this year and possibly more in 2021.

“We’re looking at laying off three people and I’m taking a 5-percent cut in my salary, and we’re looking at reducing services,” he said. “There are rumors it could go up to 40 percent and then we’d be looking at a merger or really going down to barebones.”

He said Nioga was able to receive $108,000 in Payroll Protection Program funds.

“If I didn’t get it, our deficit would have been over $300,000,” he said, which represents about a third of its annual budget. “So, that would have been tough.”

Libraries are open, but functioning under strict guidelines as mandated by the state. Those restrictions include no sitting, reading, gathering, playing, and no in-person library programs of more than 25 people.

Conrad said Richmond Memorial saw a big after-school crowd during a normal year, but he doesn’t expect that to continue.

“Our current safety plan allows people to come into the building and check materials out and to use an assigned computer for essential purposes only,” he said. “We’re expecting almost zero school and after-school presence. It’s going to affect our stats and our numbers, but not necessarily our circulation.”

The subject of internet access for students, especially in rural areas, also was discussed.

Kim Gibson, director of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, said she and her staff are committed to “doing whatever we can” to (social distance) students so they can do their homework.

She said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent John Fisgus suggested a partnership between the school district and the library, something that would be beneficial if O-A’s plan of 100-percent in-person learning had to be changed.

“We’re very fortunate to have a nice size library, building-wise,” Gibson said, noting that the library increased its bandwidth for Wi-Fi.

She also said that 30 percent of O-A families do not have access to the internet.

“We have access to Wi-Fi upstairs and downstairs …,” she said. “I want to be there for these kids. We have it (Wi-Fi) open 24/7 outside and I see these kids out there trying to do their homework.”

The other directors at the meeting were Diana Reding, Corfu Public Library; Josselyn Borowiec, Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion; Nancy Bailey, Byron-Bergen Public Library, and Betsy Halvorsen, Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy.

Three of the libraries – Richmond, Woodward and Corfu – are connected to (but not regulated by) school districts and receive the bulk of their funding from property taxes as voted on by the public.

The Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Oakfield libraries are of the municipal type, with funding derived through sales and income taxes from the towns and/or villages they serve. Bailey reported that the B-B library is in the process of changing to the school district variety.

August 14, 2020 - 2:46pm

From Shannon Lyaski, Conservation Education program coordinator, Genesee County Park & Forest:

A new experience awaits visitors at the Richmond Memorial Library and at DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia!

The Richmond Memorial Library is excited to provide one Storywalk for the library grounds and two Storywalks for the DeWitt Recreation Area through the NIOGA Library System.

"Storywalks" are books that have been enlarged and placed onto lawn signs to be used outdoors. They encourage young readers to read for fun while getting active and enjoying a walk!

Storywalks also help children keep reading during the summer and provide a fun alternative to storytime readings at local libraries, which are difficult to conduct while social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Storywalks set up along the quarter-mile walking track at DeWitt Recreation Area currently feature “Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur” by Cirocco Dunlap and “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams.

The Storywalk at the Richmond Memorial Library currently features “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold.

Each Storywalk sign at DeWitt Recreation Area has pages of one book mounted on one side, and pages of the other book mounted on the other side. Readers can walk clockwise around the walking track and read one story, then reverse direction and read the other story as they walk around counterclockwise.

These two titles will be on loan at DeWitt Recreation Area through the NIOGA Library System starting today, Aug.14th, through Monday, Sept. 6th.

After Labor Day weekend, the stories will change every two weeks and highlight seasonal events, happenings in nature, and more. An information box located on the title page sign for each story provides an author summary, a list of similar titles, and fun activities for kids.

We are excited about this opportunity for outdoor exercise and great reading for kids! Special thanks to the Richmond Memorial Library and the NIOGA Library System for making this new recreational experience possible.

For more information visit our website, or contact Shannon Lyaski at [email protected] or (585) 344-1122.

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