MASSENA — The Massena Public Library director and Board of Trustees hope to convince the public to transition from a municipal public library to a school district public library to help secure the facility’s financial future.
Two information sessions this month will discuss the need to make the transition and will be held 2 p.m. Nov. 20 and 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at the library.
One reason Library Director Elaine Dunne supports the change is that there’s no guarantee how much funding will be available from the town of Massena alone each year.
“The town just doesn’t have the tax base that it had,” she said. “They’ve really been trying to work with me, helping out as far as supporting grants that I’ve written.
“We have been covering the shortfall with fund balance. The fund balance is now just about exhausted.”
Unlike municipal public libraries, a school district library budget would be approved by district voters. With municipal libraries, budgets are approved by the county, city, village or town.
School district public libraries receive funding directly from school district taxpayers after voter approval from resolutions placed on the annual school district ballot. If the funding proposition passes, the school district would collect s the taxes and turn s the library portion over to the library board.
While Ms. Dunne has been successful finding grant funding, this doesn’t cover the library’s operating costs or the cost of purchasing new materials. It’s designed for other needs such as building construction and new equipment.
“We are offering expanded services. It’s not just about free books. We offer plenty of free training. We offer downloadable books. We offer an awful lot,” she said.
With the uncertainty in future town funding, Ms. Dunne said it’s time to explore transitioning to a school district public library, a move supported by the library’s Board of Trustees.
“This isn’t something that we’re doing lightly. (The state education department) is encouraging public libraries to go to district libraries,” Ms. Dunne said.
As a district library, voters will have a direct say in the funding.
“If you want an increase, you go back to the voters and let them decide if they want to increase it,” she said. “It’s putting the future of the library directly into the hands of the taxpayers without using the town as the intermediary.”
As a district library, funding would be spread out along the school district map. Rather than just town of Massena taxpayers covering the cost of the library, funding would come from taxpayers in other towns within the district, like Brasher and Louisville, who already use the Massena Public Library.
“It’s just the funding stream that’s different, and it’s going to be equitable to all citizens,” Ms. Dunne said.
Conversations about the change are already underway with the Town Council.
“They want to have a strong library,” Ms. Dunne said of the council. “They see the value of a strong library.”
She plans to meet with Superintendent Patrick Brady to talk about a potential timeline and discuss what would be expected from the school district and library.
“The idea is funding for the future. We hope that we can find secure funding to keep the library going not just now, but years and years and years. We deserve our place in the community. We’ve earned it,” Ms. Dunne said.
The gist of it
WHAT: The Massena Public Library will be holding two information sessions to talk about transitioning from a municipal public library to a school district public library
WHEN/WHERE: 2 p.m. Nov. 20 and 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Massena Public Library, 41 Glen St.
WHY: Becoming a school district public library would mean a steady amount of income each year, with funding also collected for the library from areas outside of the town of Massena