Organizers of "Library Obscura," (along with library patrons), an art and advocacy event about recent funding cuts and administrative changes in the Buffalo and Erie County Public LIbrary System.
At this moment, "Library Obscura," billed as an arts and advocacy event to raise awareness about the funding struggles of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, is under way in the Karpeles Manuscript Library at 220 North Street. I wrote about the event, organized by former library employee Jillian Mertz along with many others, in Friday's Gusto.
Many of the library's current and former employees remain frustrated about what they see as a lack of action on the part of the library's administration to oppose the funding cuts proposed late last year by Erie County Executive Chris Collins. From the perspective of many of them, that administration's perceived lack of spine (something I wrote about as it applies to the arts community in my column today) means that they are in some ways playing a key role in their own demise. Not being aware of the complex political machinations of the upper echelon of library management, I can't say whether that's true or false.
In Friday's story, I quoted from a statement written by Sharon Thomas, president of the library's board of trustees, defending the administration's actions during the funding crisis and in its wake. Given space, I wasn't able to quote the entire statement, so I'm reprinting it in full here:
“The Library system board and library administration worked tirelessly and continue to work to get our message directly into the hands of elected officials and to the public. During last year’s budget crisis, we communicated on a regular basis with our library users, the general public, elected officials and our staff in an effort to address the implications of the proposed cuts. Meetings were held, phone calls and presentations were made to legislative committees and library staff. Additionally, throughout the budget process Library administration participated in more than a dozen interviews with the local media to present our message about how library funding cuts would greatly reduce the significant services expected from our libraries. Public feedback was also garnered through the three Re-Image community meetings held last November which specifically addressed the library of tomorrow.
"Dealing with the reality of budget cuts, primarily based on a downturn in the economy, Library administration was challenged to work with less while keeping all 37 public libraries in Erie County open. We continue to focus our efforts on doing the most effective job of providing quality library services to the people of Erie County.
Currently, we are working with member-library boards, staff and outside consultants to explore options for a predictable and sustainable funding source.”
-Sharon Thomas, Chair, Library Board of Trustees