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COMMENTS FOR CANA CANDIDATES FORUM

MAY 6, 2002

 

My name is Ellen Bach and I am a candidate for the Albany Public Library Board of Trustees.  I currently serve the Library Board as its Secretary and as chair of the Rechartering Committee.  I live in the Melrose Neighborhood of Albany with my husband and my three sons, ages 3, 7, and 10.  I am a lawyer in private practice at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna.

   Why do I want to be a Trustee of the Library?

 We all lead busy lives.  When we choose what work we will do outside job and family, we choose work we believe is important.  I want to continue my service to the Library because I believe it is a critical institution in the City.  Especially at this time of change for the Library, I think I have something to offer by serving.

 A strong, dynamic Library benefits each of us as individuals.  As library patrons, we come to the Library in search of something for ourselves: a good novel, music, or books to share with our children.  Some of us come to the Library as our primary or only access to the internet.

 But we also come to the Library as members of a community.  We come to the Library for meetings like this one.  We bring our children to story hour and other group activities.  The Library’s role as a center of community has never been more important than it is today – to the City as a whole and to our neighborhoods.

 What are my qualifications?

 I’ve been an attorney in private practice here in Albany for nearly 10 years, in the area of labor and employment law.  I have found that those lawyer’s skills are useful to the Library in many ways.

 Before I became an attorney, I spent some  years in Washington doing public policy work related to the needs of children living in urban areas – looking at how to provide the most effective school and other services to city children.  Those are issues that I know about and care about, and I believe they are issues that are key to the work of this Library. 


I even have some knowledge of the daily workings of libraries, because I worked at a  Harvard University library all through college.

What are my short-term and long-term goals for the Library?

It is obvious to just about anyone who has spoken with me in the past weeks that my short-term goal for the Library is to recharter it to be independent.  The May 21st vote on rechartering presents us with an opportunity to dramatically increase the Library's responsiveness to the community, and, therefore, its ability to play a vital role in City life.

The proposed library model has the confusing name “school district library,” and I want to take this opportunity to clarify for everyone that if it is rechartered, the Library will be independent of both the City government and the School District. The “school district library” model has been recommended by the New York State Board of Regents as the most effective model for libraries with our kind of geographic service area.

Beyond rechartering, there are some specific steps I believe the Library should take to improve services to residents. 

      We need to improve the quality and quantity of materials available for circulation.  The cuts made to the Library’s materials budget were necessitated by lack of funds, but those cuts were too deep.

                      We need to make a children's librarian available at every branch, a critical service provided to Albany's families ten years ago that was lost because of staffing cuts.

 

·                      We need to expand Library services to areas of the City that have been under served.  In the near term, we must complete the work being done with federal funds to open a branch in North Albany. 

 

As a trustee, I would remain committed to a neighborhood-based library system.   In my view, our City neighborhoods offer us a huge advantage over suburban living.  The character of our Library should be one that preserves and nurtures those neighborhoods. 

 

I want the people of Albany to feel greater ownership of their Library.  This process of establishing an independent Library should be the start of a continued effort to educate and encourage all City residents to use Library services.  There is no good reason that every resident of Albany should not have and use a library card.

I hope that you will vote for me on May 21st.   But more importantly, I hope you will vote to recharter the Library and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

 

This is your Library.   Please vote YES.