Answering some questions about library funding

From Michelle McLagan, Chairperson, Ogdensburg Public Library Board of Trustees – about comments on other pages.
I’d like to clarify a few issues that have been addressed.


(1) The library board’s current plan is to remain a public library chartered by the NYS Education Department, but to replace the City funding with funding voted on by residents of the Ogdensburg City School District which encompasses not only the City of Ogdensburg but a portion of the towns of Oswegatchie and Lisbon.


(2) If the referendum in May passes, the library will have replaced the current city funding with a sustainable amount of funding that hopefully will cover expenditures for two to three years without the library asking for additional money via a referendum.


(3) The library board may, at some point in the future, decide to become a school district library. The majority of libraries in NY state are NOT school district libraries, that is an inaccurate statement. In fact, there is only one school district library in St. Lawrence County and that is the Potsdam Public Library. The rest are a combination of public and association libraries, with one special legislative district library. The more accurate statement would be that “more than half of NYS libraries receive a portion of their funding via a school district referendum” but in most cases, that is a portion and not the majority of the library’s funding.


(4) Becoming a school district library is not something the library board obtains by petitioning the state; it is something the library board would potentially place on a referendum for the school district voters to decide. If passed, the library would then re-charter as a school district library and that is something that DOES happen on the state level – but voters make the initial decision. The library board considered, with legal advice, the option of becoming a school district library in 2021 and opted to simply go out for a budget vote as that is a quicker and easier route to sustainability, especially with the abrupt “defunding” message received by the city in late 2020.

5) The library has applied for, and received, close to a half-million dollars in grant funding for building upkeep and renovations in the form of legislative and construction grants over the past six years.


(6) Naturally, the library supports the idea of a city museum, and further discussion will need to take place. Incorporating a museum on the second floor of the library would result in a loss of the library’s second floor conference space and auditorium where the library hosts a wide number of community and educational programming on an almost daily basis. The library will be returning to more in-person programs as NYS lifts more COVID restrictions that affect libraries. The library does have a long-standing and close relationship with the Remington Museum.


(7) Book and other material selection would not be dictated by NYS under any circumstances; the library has a collection development policy by which the certified librarians and support staff select materials that are current, relevant, and of interest to the greater Ogdensburg community.


(8) With regards to the “library board lacking”, the board has been waiting on the re-appointment of a trustee and the appointment of two new trustees; the board is hopeful the Mayor will appoint all three trustees at Monday’s City Council meeting so the board will once again be operating at full capacity; yes, it is difficult to operate under Public Officers and Open Meetings laws with only 6 of 9 trustees who have taken the Oath of Office.


(9) For those who wish to support the Ogdensburg Public Library, there are many ways to help besides the May funding referendum – join the Friends of the Library, spread the word about the value of library programs and services, use AmazonSmile and designate the library as the charitable recipient, purchase items on the library’s AmazonSmile Charity Wish List, and most importantly, visit the library!


(10) For further information about the library or clarification of any issues regarding the upcoming budget vote, programs, services, or anything else, please reach out to the library’s Executive Director, Penny Kerfien. She’s able to address any questions; naturally none of us want misinformation out in the community or on social media – as a city we work best when we are all working toward the common goal of a prosperous, safe, and enjoyable place to live.