Niagara Falls Public Library Faces Closure

Article excerpt

Following the defeat of a public referendum that would have allowed it to survive a million-dollar cut the city made to its budget last year, the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Public Library and its LaSalle branch could close their doors for good unless a solution is soon found.

At a special meeting with trustees July 12, Mayor Vince Anello said the city is considering applying a surplus fund of $548,000 left over from the 2004 budget. But an independent auditor warned in June that the amount is insufficient to cover emergency expenses through the rest of the year, the July 13 Niagara Gazette reported.

"We really need direction," Trustee President Dolores Marino told city leaders. "What is it you want us to do? We are in dire straits."

Officials are also contemplating asking the New York State Library for a one-time waiver to the requirement that a library in a municipality the size of Niagara Falls must stay open a minimum of 55 hours per week. But trustees worry that reduced funding and hours would jeopardize ongoing grant money and other state aid.

The financially strapped city announced in December 2004 that it could only afford about half of the $2.1 million that library officials needed for 2005 operating costs. Residents then rejected by only 480 votes a June 21 referendum that would have created a new district to fund library operations through property taxes instead of the city coffers.

Although city funding ran out at the end of June, NFPL Executive Director Betty Babanoury told American Libraries that the mayor came up with enough to keep the library open through July. She said that NFPL has already eliminated 10 positions since October, and there are no other expenses left to cut. But if nothing is done to fund it for the rest of the year, 37 full- and part-time employees will lose their jobs and Niagara Falls will lose its library. …