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Grants for local libraries are vital

August 9, 2019 07:30 pm

It’s encouraging to see the state open its coffers and shake loose at least a small but badly needed amount of funding for public libraries in Columbia and Greene counties. We wholeheartedly support our libraries and the state’s decision to come to their aid.

Grants of varying amounts went to libraries in Claverack, Germantown, Hudson, Kinderhook, North Chatham and Hillsdale in Columbia County and Athens in Greene County.

These public libraries, including the ones that did not receive state funding, live up to their names. They are still the “public” libraries. As such, they are the foundations of their communities. They are open to all. They provide a safe and relaxing environment for all patrons. They are inclusive. They foster diversity. No one regardless of race or ethnicity, religion, income level or educational background is turned away. Their resources are deep and of the highest quality. Go online to check out a magazine or settle into a chair and read your favorite best-seller and see how quickly the time passes.

They are supported mainly by a slice of school district budgets that are in turn supported by taxpaying registered voters. For a small amount of money each day, taxpayers open a world of ideas and experiences for themselves and others under the roof of their public library. Libraries are fortresses of independence and knowledge. They offer free and equal access to educational opportunities and, as Columbia and Greene counties struggle to provide broadband access to unserved rural homes, they are a primary source of internet access for many people. All libraries offer programs and special features for children and adults. The Mid-Hudson Library Association offers access to more than 30 public libraries.

This new round of funding will help the selected libraries complete construction, renovations and other enhancement projects. Long periods of underfunding or no funding at all have chopped the legs out from local library services and, more important, passed higher costs on to local taxpayers.

The latest round of funding, we are happy to report, is the largest of its kind to be awarded to local libraries. The grants will open new space for library resources, make some libraries more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, repairs to library buildings and restoration of historic libraries.

Our libraries provide vital cultural and educational services. It’s past time the state awarded grants to preserve and nurture their role in the community, now and for the future.

Librarians are essential. A public library is essential. More and more these operate as learning centers. Forms need computers and internet, but often the librarian is needed for someone to succeed with their applications and other processes. The essentials are the same, access to knowledge. I love my library in Catskill.