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State will increase funding for libraries by more than $1 million

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WATERTOWN — The state budget includes significant support for local libraries, rejecting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed $4 million cut while increasing funding for libraries across the state by $1 million over last year’s budget.

“Our Legislature did a great job reversing Cuomo’s cuts,” said Stephen B. Bolton, director of the North Country Library System. “The $1 million increase represents a 1.2 percent increase in overall funding. It will help keep our technology systems intact and will likely keep us from deficits.”

Mr. Bolton said the $1 million increase will be distributed “pretty thinly” across the state to the 23 library districts. He said there are 60 libraries in the North Country system.

New York Library Association Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen, in a blog on the New York library directors website, said the $5 million legislative add-on to library aid is the largest since 2007 and the second largest in well over a decade.

“After the financial crash of 2008, we had a funding cut of 23 percent,” Mr. Bolton said. “We made adjustments, but we’re always on the edge of keeping the books balanced. This increase will help that.”

The North Country Library System provides technology support, helps with circulation systems to track library materials and ships books between different libraries.

Potsdam Public Library Director Patricia W. Musante said the library is busier than ever with people coming in to use computers, take out e-books or borrow books and movies.

She said people still come in and take out the newest bound books, but the technology improvements and opportunities are bringing in new people every day.

Canton Free Library Director Emily M. Owens said the money will benefit all libraries directly by helping to support the North Country Library System.

“The money isn’t going directly to us,” Ms. Owens said. “They’re not working directly with the public, but they work directly with us and we work directly with the public.”

Ms. Owens said the Canton Library, which lost all funding from St. Lawrence County, is supported by the library system, through the town of Canton and by other community groups.

Barbara J. Wheeler, director of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library in Watertown, said the city library is funded by nonprofit groups such as the Friends of the Library, local donations and the city of Watertown. She said this year the city cut 10 percent, about $20,000, from the library’s funding.

She said any additional support is always helpful.

“It’s been a long time since the state has given more money to the libraries,” Ms. Wheeler said. “We haven’t had the challenge in a while. It’s a good challenge.”

Also included is $14 million for the state library construction aid program and a $1.3 million offset for library systems subject to the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax.

“The construction aid program is really a great thing for our libraries,” Ms. Musante said. “Our library was built in 1932 and we have to meet historical society standards.”

Ms. Musante said the additional funding will go a long way to help all libraries in the region.

“We share very valuable services,” Ms. Musante said. “I know they’ll do something that will help us all.”

She said north country libraries can be upbeat.

“It’s an exciting time for libraries. We are definitely part of the community,” Ms. Musante said. “The important thing is for us to be a patron-driven institution. People are reading more than ever. The format’s changing, but books are just as popular as ever.”

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