Your Library, Your Voice

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What the library is doing

What is “Your Library, Your Voice?”

Under NYS Education Law section 259, association libraries are permitted to present their budget on school district ballots. Many other New York State libraries utilize this law to ensure their sustainability. For the reasons listed below, we are excited to make this move for the Kirkland Town Library.

Current Budget

How is the library currently funded?


How long has the Town of Kirkland been funding the library?

We have requested support from the Town of Kirkland since at least 1907 when our first request was $100. We are grateful because their support helped grow the library. Our support from the town was increased 1.35% in 2004, 3% in 2008 and 1.9% in 2010. Given the tax cap, future increases for the library are highly doubtful. It’s time now for the library to stand on its own and be responsible for its future.

Do you receive funding from the Village?

We do not currently receive any funding from the Village.

Rationale for this Initiative

The library seems fine the way it is. Why are you making this change?

Three main reasons:

  1. Primary funding for the library comes from the Town of Kirkland, which has held library support at 2010 levels. However, expenditures continue to increase, and we have had to continually work to do more with less — which is not sustainable. We need to ensure that sufficient funds are available to maintain the library building and support the collection, programs, and services our community needs now and in the future.
  2. The State of New York established the school district and chartered the library to serve the educational interests of the Town of Kirkland. The school district budget is determined by members of the community, and we believe strongly that the KTL budget should be as well. The library is a community resource accessible to all, so it is appropriate that the community has a direct voice in determining its funding.
  3. The Kirkland Town Library is funded from two main sources: the government and private contributions, with the bulk of our operating income coming from the Town of Kirkland. Since the Town of Kirkland gets its money from the community, the library, in turn, receives community funding. We are just moving to a different form of community funding, which will allow greater transparency and more community input into the support the library receives.

How does our library’s support compare to other similarly sized libraries in Upstate New York?

Benefits to the Community

What will the library do with the money?

In addition to funding basic operating costs, this level of funding will allow us to better address the expressed needs and desires of our community. For example, opening earlier would allow people to stop on their way to work to pick up materials. Sunday afternoon hours during the winter would combat winter blues and increase the time that families can visit the library together. We would build on our current programming levels and offer even more timely and relevant programs for children, teens, and adults. More materials could be added to the collection to meet the interests and demands of patrons.

What are the community benefits of an approved library budget?

One main benefit is that the library could respond quicker to changing community needs. For example, information and technology continue to transform our world. Approving this budget means we can do more to provide opportunities for members in our community to learn about and use existing technologies. We can better assist our school system with offerings that help every child entering school with the requisite developmental skills that nurture a lifelong enjoyment of reading and that allow our teens to explore diverse interests. Every voter could weigh in on the library budget, and by doing so, demonstrate their support of the library’s goals and initiatives.

What is the difference between the 2019 and 2020 budgets?

Why is the library requesting the proposed amount?

The library board carefully studied the amount of money needed to maintain and improve our collection, staffing, programming and services, and building and grounds. Voters will be asked to approve a budget of $324,784. This level of funding allows us to catch up with what we have not been able to offer in the past due to budget constraints and gives us the opportunity to provide a greater range of services to our patrons at times that are more convenient, through extended and weekend hours. Our library collection can be more comprehensive, and the offerings will have a greater breadth and depth, with knowledgeable staff available to serve the needs of our patrons.   

Why not other funding alternatives?

Why won’t the town just give you more money?

Although we have requested additional support, the Town of Kirkland has limited resources and must make decisions regarding funding that officials feel are in the best interest of the town. They have to balance many competing needs. Our belief is that members of this community are in the best position to decide what funding the library shall receive because they are the direct beneficiaries of the collections, programs, and services we offer.

Why can’t you just charge a fee?

Under Commissioner’s Regulations 90.3 (a) of New York State Education Law, libraries cannot charge library card fees within their own library system. Our library system includes Oneida, Madison, and Herkimer counties.

Why don’t you use volunteers to staff the library?

While we do have many wonderful volunteers (~100) who help us greatly (annually they contribute over 1,650 hours), the tasks they can perform are limited. We need library professionals and other trained staff to offer the level of service and programming that our community wants and needs. The library requires the continuity and expertise that only a qualified paid staff can provide.

How did the library pay for the recent construction projects?

80% of the funding to maintain the building came from external sources:

  • Driveway and parking lot improvements and paving: New York State Construction Grant and Hamilton College Town Gown Fund
  • Exterior painting: Hamilton College Town Gown Fund
  • New windows: New York State Construction Grant, Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties, Hamilton College Town Gown Fund and individual gifts (window campaign)
  • Tuck pointing (two phases): New York State Construction Grant
  • Insulation of circulation desk ceiling area: New York State Construction Grant
  • Audiovisual equipment, fabric ceiling panels: Senator Valesky

Could the library seek additional grants and donations?

Annual gifts to the library help cover current operating costs and leave little to nothing for expansion or improvement. The library has consciously sought, and been fortunate to secure, grants that allow us to stretch our dollars while improving our building and offering unique programming and services for all ages. Since 2012, we have applied for and received almost $16,000 in programming and services grants and over $202,600 for building improvements.

Listing of grants received since 2012:

  • New York State Construction Grants
  • Hamilton College Town Gown Fund
  • Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties
  • National Grid Small Business Incentive
  • American Library Association
    • Making Sense of the Civil War
    • PBS America’s Great Read
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (in partnership with Hamilton College)
    • America’s Music: A film history
  • New York Council for the Humanities (now Humanities New York)
    • Parent/Child Reading and Discussion
    • Two Public Scholar Events
    • Two Adult Reading and Discussion Series
    • Three Community Conversations
  • CNY Arts
    • Improvisation Activities/Events
    • Intergenerational Stories and Performance
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
  • MidYork Library System Grants
    • Early Literacy (Storytime Bags)
    • Adult Literacy (Small Business Center and Classes on Library Online Services)
    • Outreach –  (Literacy project for those with intellectual/
      developmental disabilities)

Why can’t the library reduce its operational costs?

Our current operating budget is already lean without any wiggle room to reduce operating costs. We are fortunate that early in the library’s history, we were able to purchase our historic building, but it still needs to be maintained. As any homeowner knows, putting off repairs ends up costing more in the long run. We could reduce the hours we are open, or reduce the popular programs we offer, but those decisions would directly impact community members. We could cut our collection, but that would mean our community is less informed, less able to continue to learn and explore and grow. We believe that the members of the community we serve benefit from greater accessibility to the library. Plus, the KTL is much more than a place to get a book or attend a program — it acts as a community center, and many visitors come to gather with friends, new and old.

Why can’t the library hold more fundraisers to increase revenue?

Between 25-30% of our annual operating income comes from our annual appeal, the book sale held each year by the Friends of the Library, and other fundraising initiatives. We could not operate the library without these efforts and our community’s generosity. However, relying on this much of our income from a source that fluctuates is not prudent fiscal management. Community-based funding would allow for a stable income stream and allow gifts to be directed toward innovative projects or unique programs not be covered in an operating budget.

Why should I support the library if I don’t use it?

A library is part of the town’s educational system and contributes to our attractive quality of life. We are there for babies acquiring the pre-literacy skills so important to school success and for retirees interested in expanding their comfort with technology. Indeed, we are the only community space that provides services to people of all ages, regardless of economic status. We make our town better. We make this a place people want to call home. You may not use the library, but your neighbors, friends, the youth of our community, and Town of Kirkland business owners do. They come for local organization meetings and educational programs, to use our computers and conduct research, or to borrow a book or DVD. They access various online services. In fact, each month we welcome an average of 5,500 visitors, and 60% of the residents in our service area hold a library card. Your support of this initiative means all of the ways the library serves this community will continue uninterrupted.

Effect on Community Members

Will this result in an additional or new charge on my property bill?

The library assessment will show on your school district bill. We are asking the community to shift library funding from the discretion of the Kirkland Town Board to a funding stream that allows for greater transparency and predictability. Also, as in countless communities across New York, those who vote determine the value of their library, and the vast majority of those votes are successful. Community-based funding will ensure that the library remains viable now and into the future.

Will library funding automatically increase each year?

The library does not need to put its budget out for a vote every year. Once this initiative passes, the Library Board of Trustees would discuss any budget increases which would then be voted on by community members.  

Who decides how the money is used?

The Kirkland Town Library Board of Trustees has the overall fiduciary responsibility for the library. Working closely with the library director, they set the annual budgets. These decisions include input from the local community. The board also takes into account best practices in library services and collections.

Will my town bill go down? What will the town do with the money they used to designate to the library?

We cannot speak for the town. The town board decides each year how to allocate funds, and we do not have a say in how they will choose to re-allocate the funds that were designated for the library.

How will my support of the library compare to other assessments?

[Chart coming soon]

How much will the library budget cost me?

In 2020, the Library tax levy in the school vote would be just $0.87 per $1,000 of assessed home value.  For a home assessed at $100,000, this equates to $1.67 per week for all the services available at the library.

Voting Details

When and where do I vote?

Voting will take place May 21 from noon to 8 p.m. in the Clinton Central School Theater Lobby.

What is the ballot language?

RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Clinton Central School District is hereby authorized to levy taxes annually in the amount of $324,784, which will be distributed to the Kirkland Town Library to provide public library services to school district residents.

How is the library able to align its local tax support with the boundaries of the school district?

Education Law 259 allows local libraries to levy tax support for library operations based on the geographic boundaries of the school district in which the library resides. The school board is required to place a proposition for the levy on its annual school district budget vote along with other propositions.


What happens if the vote fails? Would the library still receive funding from the town in 2020?

The library trustees would have to make difficult decisions on what will be eliminated from the 2020 budget. Moving forward, we would increase our efforts to educate the public about the value of the library and again seek community-based funding at a later date. If the vote fails, the Town has indicated they would still support the library, but we do not know what level of support we might be able to expect.

If you are receiving funding, shouldn’t your Trustees be voted on like the school board?

The library has always received community funding; this is simply a new method. The Kirkland Town Library is chartered by the State of New York as an association library. As such, we follow state regulations for the selection of board members. While the trustees may not be publicly voted on, they are selected in light of the knowledge, skills, and experience they would contribute to fill the critical needs of the library. Trustees can serve up to three three-year terms.