Tech, Playground Proposed For Library

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For the third year in a row, the Westbury Memorial Public Library will be helping local residents save their money by proposing a budget with no tax increases.

The proposed $3.2 million budget is a small decrease from last year and residents are still expected to only pay an average of $284 per household.

“We’re holding the line on costs by being really careful about how we spend money,” said library director Cathleen Merenda.

One of the major cuts in this year’s budget is a $10,000 decrease in the book budget. The board did decide to shift some funds into more electronic books, but Merenda says the library also has a more targeted approach in knowing what the library needs, which has allowed for them to better evaluate where to spend their book dollars. Last year they started using Collection HQ, a database that allows them to evaluate their collections.

LibBudget_031815A“It shows us what we need to purchase and what we have enough of. Some areas we are adequately stocked, like adult fiction, so we don’t have to do a big expenditure on that,” Merenda said. “In other areas we’ve been buying additional [books], but this tool helps us save money for what the community is interested in. We have a better sense for where to spend the money now.”

One significant line change was a renegotiated Carle Place contract income. In the 2015-16 budget there was a decrease in income from the Carle Place Library funding district, due to a decrease in population in the community. In 2014-15, Carle Place paid the library $790,000, with the 2015-16 proposed budget, they are scheduled to pay $690,000.

The library is proposing to fill that gap by pulling $168,721 from their surplus next year; an increase from last year’s $91,000. But with more than $871,000 currently in the surplus, Merenda says the money is going where the community intended it.

“We never want to go higher than this but the surplus is a little bit on the high side,” Merenda said. “I wouldn’t want the surplus to get too big because the community gives us the money with the expectation that we’ll use it for the library.”

But Merenda said that because next year they would not pull as much from the surplus, they might have to ask for a small tax increase next year.

“Taking that amount this year is fine, there may have to be an adjustment next year,” Merenda said. “Next year we may ask for an increase. We held the line for three years so we’re hoping people wouldn’t be upset if we asked within the tax cap.”

Some of the surplus funds will also go towards building a preschool playground on the right side of the Children’s Library. The library funds will match a $40,000 grant from Sen. Jack Martins’ office.

“We’ve been really successful with the preschool population and programming,” Merenda said. “People have been coming to spend time at the library to both enjoy books, but also to play. We wanted to expand the whole concept of play outside the library.”

The library is hoping to build the playground—complete with musical instruments, play structures and benches—by this summer.

Anything technology-related has been extremely popular at the library. Merenda says there’s been a major uptick in technology courses and electronic book use for all ages.

“The Children’s Library recently added Kindles with children’s books on them and we cannot keep them on the shelves. And in the Teen Zone kids are using iPads,” Merenda said. “The good news is, people are still reading, just not necessarily in a paper book format as much as they used to.”

In keeping that trend, the library is also hoping to add even more technology, including using grant money to add more permanent technology to the Teen Zone and freestanding computers all over the library.

Find out more about the proposed library budget at their budget hearing on March 26 at 7 p.m. at the library. The library board trustee and budget vote is April 7. For more information visit www.westburylibrary.org.

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Betsy Abraham is the former senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times and Massapequa Observer. She also wrote for Long Island Weekly.

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