It’s hard to imagine Ogdensburg without its historic library at 312 Washington St. However, if a referendum attached to the school budget vote fails then it may result in the library’s eventual closure.
This comes after the city of Ogdensburg has told the library’s Board of Trustees that it will no longer fund it in the future, that this year would be its last year of financial support. The city’s contributions to the library have dwindled over the years due to its own financial hardships. In 2018, the amount was $453,625. This current fiscal year it was dropped to $162,000. In 2022, there will be nothing.
Library officials say that it takes $350,000 to have minimal library services and the Board of Trustees, Friends of the Public Library and Library Director Penny Kerfien deserve credit for continuing to provide quality services with the cuts they have been forced with over the years.
The library needs help and the library will be coming to you, the voters living within the Ogdensburg City School District, with a referendum on the May 18 school ballot. The vote will take place from 12 to 9 p.m. at Ogdensburg Free Academy.
The amount funded with the referendum is $225,000, an amount shared by every property owner within the school district. According to library officials, a property owner with a home assessed at $65,000 would pay a total of $58.05 for the year. That equates to $4.80 a month and just 16 cents a day to keep the public library open.
The main question for voters will be, why should I vote “yes”?
What makes libraries extremely valuable to their communities is that they are open to all, without discrimination. A portion of a proclamation read for National Library Week at the April 12 City Council meeting states it best, “Libraries are pioneers supporting democracy and effecting social change, with a commitment to providing equitable access to information for all library users regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status.”
The Ogdensburg Public Library is used a lot and the numbers support the claim. Since 2020, numbers and services were diminished by the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s take a look at 2019. That year, the library had 45,384 visitors walk through its doors. The library presented 233 programs, had 50,779 items and 3,428 e-books checked out and ended the year with 8,033 library card holders. Many people used the technology housed within, with 6,496 computer sessions and 18,957 wireless users taking advantage of the library.
And lastly, the Ogdensburg Public Library has a proud legacy here in the city. Library services in Ogdensburg dates back to at least 1828, with the library moving into its present location in 1895. The library adapted to the needs of the public over the years. It added the Isabella D. Dodge children’s room in 1979, a room that has been updated twice since then. An elevator was added in 1983 to make it fully handicapped accessible. In 1987, public computers were added to the library’s offerings. A teen room was eventually added in 2009.
The library, like every other public entity or organization, struggled with the global pandemic when it hit in spring 2020. The library had to close its doors for three months. After a while it was able to offer curb side pick-up of books and materials on a requested basis. Then in October, the library opened up half days for people to enter and browse and do research as needed. The library also offered curb side children’s crafts and saw between 25-35 activities picked up each week. During a global pandemic, library staff were adapting and doing their best to provide the free services the community has come to know and expect.
It’s time to make a commitment to this valued resource for our community and vote “yes” on the ballot May 18.
The Journal will be committed to the communities of Ogdensburg and its surrounding townships. This weekly paper will offer people a platform to voice their concerns, promote local events, recognize achievements and present information in a fair and accurate manner. Leaning on lessons learned from the past, we will be focusing our resources on bringing you, the reader, local news at its best.