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Dr. Jane W. Altes

23 Valleyview Drive

Albany, NY 12208

 

At a recent public meeting, candidates for the Albany Public Library board of directors were asked to address to three matters.  My responses follow:

 

Interest in the Board:

 

When I retired in 2000, my increased time allowed me to expand my community activities and I advised the mayor of my interest in making a civic contribution.  He appointed me to the Library Board in 2001.  I hoped it was as good a match as I thought it could be -- and it has been.  The library is clearly at a crossroads, and I fully support its desire to be more responsive to the needs of the citizens of this community.  I would like to help insure that responsiveness.

 

Qualifications:

 

I have been a library user my entire life.  Indeed, I lived directly across the street from the public library when I was a child in Ohio and I served (untrained, but enthusiastic) as the liaison with high school patrons one summer during my college years.

 

I have spent my entire professional career in education. Education’s goal is to encourage people to learn and to enjoy learning.  Those goals are library goals as well. 

 

Most recently, I was the President of SUNY Empire State College -- the system’s non-traditional institution.  That institution serves students (nearly all adults) in special ways -- working with them individually, devising programs of study unique to each student, offering credit for college level learning obtained outside the classroom.  That philosophy -- finding ways to meet the individual needs of patrons -- is, and has been, the goal of libraries since their inception.  I fully understand that objective and I bring substantial experience in finding innovative ways to serve many and to do so individually.

 

At Empire State College,  I oversaw a budget in excess of $40 million, I was responsible for 700 faculty and staff members, I maintained good management relations with the unions representing them, I assisted the institution in improving and enhancing its services to approximately 10,000 students a year.  The skills derived from these experiences are transferable, and I believe that my background enhances my understanding of the board’s role with library, its activities and its needs. 

 

Long and Short Term Plans for the Library:

 

I believe that boards should exercise policy and fiscal responsibilities, should hire a good director and, with that director, should set expectations and evaluate their attainment.  It is the library director’s job to establish and manage day to day activities responding to both short and long term priorities.  That allocation of roles is recognized by the current board.  I would hope this approach will continue.

 

The new library system is structured to be responsive to the community and to exercise stewardship of the public’s money.  Strategic planning will begin shortly, and it will be a public process -- citizens will be invited to describe what services they seek, what materials they need, what kinds of information access they wish..  Priorities will be established and activities will be developed around them.  

 

Somewhat more specifically, the loss of staff due to budget deficiencies has hurt the ability of the library to serve.  Early plans include the replacement of children’s librarians at all of the branches and an increase in library materials and learning tools.    More grant seeking will reduce the library’s reliance on public funds, and having a development staff is critical to that approach. 

 

One plan already supported by the board is to purchase a “cybermobile” which will bring on-line resources to area neighborhoods once a week..  Not only do these modern “bookmobiles” provide direct services, they also test neighborhood needs.

 

A particular and personal interest of my own is having branch library access on Saturdays during the summer.  I found that when I worked in Saratoga I had to plan an “early day” or risk running through my entire supply of mystery stories.  It is easier for me now, but Saturday still seems to right time to explore the treasures of the library.

 

When my husband, Wally, left the Chamber of Commerce this January we frequently were asked if we planned to leave the area -- the answer was an emphatic “no”.  We have lived in New York since 1984 and in Albany since 1995.  This is home, and we definitely intend to keep it that way! 

 

While I would appreciate your support for my own candidacy, my greater interest is that you support the formation of the new District Library System.  It will be good for the Library and good for Albany.