Smithtown library faces annual budget cuts

Smithtown library book shelves © Yingzi Dong

By Diamond Bridges and Yingzi Dong

The Smithtown library won’t be able to afford a new power generator and upgrade their exterior lighting for the parking lot due to Governor Cuomo’s 2017-2018 budget cut for New York State Libraries on Jan. 17.

The library heavily relies on the construction aid they receive from the government, Robert Lusak, Smithtown Library Director, said. Libraries in Long Island will be affected by Governor Cuomo’s budget cut proposal.

“The money that we receive in construction grant money helped the library enhance its expansion project to pay for computers and furniture that benefitted the public,” Lusak said. All New York State libraries are eligible to receive a construction grant as long as it benefits the public. But Governor Cuomo proposes to cut $5 million of the construction aid, which could prevent them from renovating the facilities.

The library’s last renovation project to get new furniture and computers, took place five years ago, between Jan. 2010 and Nov. 2012.

During the 2010-2012 construction project, Lusak destined the grant money to replace the library’s outdated elevators in order to satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lusak said the library requires the purchase of a power generator in the future but if there’s a cut in the construction aid, this could prevent this change.

“The ways that the communities and patrons are using their libraries are evolving,” Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director of The New York Library Association, said. The way a community values and supports its library indicates the health of that community, which is what people look for when searching for places to live, Johannesen said.

“They could expand the Sunday hours,” Elyse Derman, a resident who has been attending to The Smithtown Library for 30 years, said. The library is only opened for 4 hours on Sunday, which Derman would prefer it to be longer.

“Reduced services, reduced hours, possibly reduced holdings of books [and] biography, reduced access to online databases,” Thomas Donlon, Port Jefferson Free Library Director, said. He explains the impact that the 2017-2018 budget cut will have on the community. “One of the reasons why we go up to Advocacy Day and meet with our representatives is that we want them to realize that libraries are important.”

The percentage of Americans visiting a library or bookmobile has decreased from 53% in 2013 to 44% in 2015, reported by Pew Research Center.

The 2017-2018 budget cut proposal will have to go through the State Senate for revision but these cuts can prevent many future renovations and reduce services in libraries.

About Diamond Bridges 7 Articles
Student journalist at Stony Brook University. Journalism Major and Digital Arts Minor. From Brooklyn, NY. Interning and contributing writer for campus media, The Independent.