Libraries play a crucial role in our communities. By providing free access to books, ideas and information, libraries connect us with the insight and knowledge of the greatest minds and best teachers. That’s why it’s important we recognize and celebrate National Library Week, which started April 18, and take part in programs like the Great New York Read Aloud, in which the state library coordinates with localities to have people read stories out loud in libraries and schools.
On Thursday at 1:30 p.m., I will be reading to young people at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library’s Teddy Bear Hour. I know that reading provides the first essential step in teaching our children to learn and respect reading. At 3:00 p.m., I will tour the Central Islip Public Library facility with trustees and meet children who attend their after-school program.
Since its inception, the public library’s mission has been to serve the community. It is a place where anyone from toddlers to college students to senior citizens can come to learn or relax, all for free.
Toward that end, the Assembly is planning a number of measures to help support our libraries. To start with, we’re urging the governor to make State Library Week coincide with the national celebration and passing legislation making the third week in April Friends of the Library Week (A.3072). We’re also commemorating April 21 as Library Staff Recognition Day to thank library workers for all they do to enrich our communities.
Last year, along with a bipartisan group of my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate, I fought against similar cuts that the governor proposed and helped restore $13.3 million to save adult literacy services, parent-child reading programs, and job placement assistance. In Suffolk County, we saved $788,603 in funding for our public libraries.
The restored state aid also helped maintain and improve libraries by providing funding for construction, updating materials and technology, and improving services for minorities and those with disabilities.
I will fight again this year to keep our libraries up-to-date and properly funded by working to adjust funding to libraries to recognize population changes identified in the 2000 census while protecting libraries from cuts due to lost population. I also sponsored the bill to establish a public library revolving loan fund to provide interest-free loans to municipalities for local library projects (A.4941-A, passed Assembly 4/19/04).
As summer approaches, I am once again sponsoring the annual Summer Reading Challenge to encourage our youngsters to continue reading during the summer months. The contest is open to all students from kindergarten through fourth grade in our community. All students who read 40 or more days this summer will receive a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate. Brochures for the program will be available at schools and libraries in May and June.
I will continue working to make sure our libraries and schools have the resources they need to help New York’s families meet the challenges of the 21st century. Every week should be National Library Week, and I’m going to make sure we have a budget that reflects that priority.