On Election Day 2022, Town of Gardiner residents will be asked to flip over their ballots and vote on two local referenda (in addition to one statewide question). One of those ballot questions is to pass a local law creating a Community Preservation Fund and Real Estate Transfer Tax. The other, Proposition 414, is about more interior spaces – notably those of the human mind, as cultivated by reading. It would boost the Town’s contribution to the budget of the Gardiner Library from $275,076 for each of the past three years to $294,331.
The much-loved and heavily used (by 3,900 of the Town’s 5,600 residents) Gardiner Library hasn’t received an increase in its funding allocated by the Town of Gardiner since 2019. That was before COVID, of course. Libraries have been particularly challenged these past three years in terms of how they can best serve their communities during times when people can’t safely gather in public places.
Preordering books for pickup at a window like takeout food was an interim measure at some libraries. In the towns covered by Hudson Valley One, our reporters have consistently observed local libraries rising to the occasion with flying colors, transitioning their offerings to include many more services accessible online, from children’s story hours to discussion groups for LGBTQ+ teens to adult language learning classes. Links to virtual libraries of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, movies and music are now standard fare. As social distancing protocols eased, most libraries have continued to maintain these expanded offerings, while resuming group activities.
Gardiner has been no exception – in fact, it has been leading the way. Not for nothing did Chronogram magazine award its 2022 Readers’ Choice Chronogrammie Award for “Best Library in the Hudson Valley” to the Gardiner Library. In any given issue of HV1, readers will note multiple announcements of upcoming author talks, craft workshops, music jams, clubs and tutoring services for teens and tweens, seminars on serious topics for adults. Nearly all of this programming is free. The Gardiner Library was among the first venues to welcome back Repair Café; Roost Studios installed a cabinet near the main entrance for pop-up art exhibits called Tiny Roost; and a Pollinator Garden planted outside the building during the pandemic is growing in nicely.
This change in focus, away from the acquisition and storage of physical books and toward providing dynamic programming that often requires computer hardware and software, means a shift in a library’s budget as well. Notably, these offerings tend to require more employee time. Last year the Gardiner Library’s staff consisted of 3.14 FTE, compared with 17 FTE for the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz.
“Gardiner Library is asking residents to support an incremental budget boost ($19,000) to basically make up for the [12 percent] rise in the Consumer Price Index since our last increase in 2019. This increase will help us expand our programming and outreach to the community, such as our annual Haunted Library event, and our plans for a recycling station,” says Gardiner Library Board of Trustees president Norma Lana. “Our limited staff and a limited programming budget make it harder for us to develop (usually free) programming. I am so impressed with our librarian Nicole Lane and our amazing staff! When I saw how much bigger the budgets are for comparable libraries, it gave me new appreciation for what Gardiner Library offers and for what our staff does. This increase will go a long way to helping us expand what we offer.”
The Library is now undertaking a three-year strategic planning process, including a user survey (www.gardinerlibrary.org/Pages/Index/225092/strategic-planning-survey) that will help determine priorities for future services and activities. Already on the drawing board, in addition to the recycling station that Lana mentions, are efforts to be certified as a Sustainable Library (qualifying the institution to apply for new categories of government grant funding) and the addition of a Library of Things: a selection of tools and other items that are only sporadically needed. It’s a hot trend at libraries these days, providing a useful service that’s appreciated even by people who aren’t big readers. The Library Board also hopes to establish a reserve fund to prepare for repairs that will become necessary as the building ages.
Passage of Proposition 414 will help all these enhancements come to pass. The cost to Gardiner taxpayers: an additional $2.50 annually per $100,000 of home value. The choice of whether that’s worthwhile will be up to the voters on Tuesday, November 8.