SPACE AND THE MEANING OF "LIBRARY" DISCUSSED AT 2015 BUDGET INFORMATION AND MEET THE CANDIDATES FORUM
September 2, 2014 -- This past Wednesday evening, the Gold Coast Public Library in Glen Head held its annual Budget Information and Meet the Candidates forum. During the hour and a half event, residents were given the opportunity to ask questions regarding the proposed 2015 library budget, and of the three candidates running for three library Board of Trustees positions. Incumbents Barbara Palermo and Tobi Kupferman are seeking re-election. Jennine Bernesby is running for the seat currently held by Vannessa Valente-Visintainer, who has chosen not to seek a second term.
The proposed Gold Coast Library Budget for 2015 increases spending by 2.6% over the current year - from $1,563,885 to 1,604,955 with a tax levy increase of 1.5% ($1,450,285 to $1472,285) - within the tax cap set by New York State.
A variety of issues were raised during the question and answer portion of the meeting, but two common themes appeared to emerge by the end of the evening - the question of space and the meaning of "library."
With regard to the budget, one resident asked about employee health benefits and if anything could be done to cut costs in that area. Library Director Michael Morea explained the library did not have control over those costs and that like employees throughout the Nassau County Library System, Gold Coast employees receive their benefits through the New York State Empire Plan. He added that there are a great many economies of scale savings to be derived from being a part of the Nassau system including access to the full system's collection of books, dvds, and other resources, cooperative purchasing for on-line research databases, and training for library workers. Ultimately, he said, being a part of the larger system not only enhances services residents receive, but also reduces the burden on their wallets.
The trustees touched a bit on the possibility of relocating the library to a larger space when the same resident asked why the amount budgeted for "outside consultants" was increasing from $5,000 this year to $30,000 in 2015. Library President Nancy Benchimol responded that when looking at other properties as the library addresses its space issues, architectural consultants are needed, as are advisers to help with bonding should that course of action be taken. Trustee Miles Sibell interjected that the discussion concerning other properties "was extremely hypothetical" at this point. Ms. Benchimol added "we are not building or purchasing at this time. We're shopping and have been doing so since we first opened. As we expand our services we have to be looking."'
Another resident asked what the tax burden is for the average resident to maintain the library. Trustee Miles Sibell replied that the library tax makes up .77% of a taxpayer's bill. And so, for a resident paying $10,000 a year in total property taxes, $77 would be going to the library. A l.5% tax increase would thus cost that taxpayer about an extra dollar over the course of a year.
Following the budget talk, the three trustee candidates introduced themselves. (click here for a link to the personal statements each submitted to the library prior to Wednesday's event.)
Ms. Kupferberg, who has served on the library's board for the past three years, is a Professor of Psychology at the New York Institute of Technology. She said, she has sought to "bridge what I do professionally with involvement in the library,' building partnerships between that NYIT and the Gold Coast Library. Giving supporting examples, she said her students have come in to do memory screenings at Gold Coast, and this coming November, she has arranged through the Interior Design Department for faculty members and students to offer their recommendations on re-working the existing space.
Ms. Palermo, who has served on the Board of Trustees since the library's inception in 2002, described herself as a professional volunteer, and through her many community activities has kept in touch with the public, which she said is important in representing the community's interest as a trustee.
Ms. Berneseby has been a third grade teacher at Glenwood Landing School for twenty years and that experience would shape her role on the library board. She discussed the importance of children retaining the love of reading that they so often develop at an early age, but, unfortunately for many, lose as they grow older. She said she would be an advocate for children and would like to act as a liaison to the schools.
Asked if she had any ideas to keep kids interested in reading, Ms. Berneseby replied that having a bookshelf in the children's section where kids could recommend books to each other through reviews and a "if you like this, then you might be interested in this" section, (like one finds on Amazon.com) would be useful. Additionally, she added that she would like to see a separate space in the library for teen readers.
As the discussion continued the subject veered towards the role of a library in this day and age, with not only the candidates but also the full board and Mr. Morea participating.
Mr. Sibell said that a library is "whatever the community wants it to be." "It's not about books anymore," he continued, "it's about programming and experiencing things." With regard to experiences - he cited the outing to Yankee stadium this past August, and the opportunity for residents to use the library's museum passes.
Mr. Morea added the rich offering of programs that one can find in the library ranging from children's workshops, to movie afternoons and evenings, to meet the author events, to classes such as Tai Chi and Zumba.
He said "libraries offer possibility. It is a place where people can improve their lives and a place that everyone can share in. They give people the opportunity to be more involved in the community."
Ms. Kupferberg said that libraries also offer "inter-generational opportunities." She cited as an example when high school students tutored seniors in using computers. "It allows the opportunity to develop a sense of community," she said.
When asked to consider where the library could improve, Ms. Berneseby replied "space" in order to offer the opportunities and experiences that were being discussed.
Mr. Sibell then commented that people are inclined to think that an increase in space leads to higher operating costs. He challenged that assumption. "Under one roof, [as opposed to the main building and the annex] we become more efficient with regard to staffing," he said. "The faculty is already there to run a larger facility," he said, "but they are spread out between two building." Mr. Morea added, "we have people to provide the services - just not the space."
The library budget vote and the election of trustees will take place at the Library at 50 Railroad Avenue in Glen Head on Monday September 8th from 9 am to 9 pm. All residents of the Gold Coast Public Library District, which includes all areas within the North Shore School District except for the Village of Sea Cliff, who are eligible to vote in a general election may cast ballots.
CLICK HERE FOR GOLD COAST LIBRARY BUDGET INFO NEWSLETTER
CLICK HERE FOR BUDGET