Monday, January 15, 2007

Albany library proposal shouldn't be ignored

First published: Monday, January 15, 2007

In his Dec. 30 letter, Albert Paolucci calls the proposed referendum on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to build five new branch libraries a "tax burden that truly is not needed." I see the library bond as a wise public investment in a library system on the brink.

The Delaware branch, in a strip mall, is leased monthly. The once-regal Howe branch in the South End has a broken boiler, no air conditioning and plaster falling on patrons. The cramped New Scotland branch is getting booted from School 19 in June. Arbor Hill has been without a branch for 40-odd years, and West Hill has never had one.

Shame on us.

The library board's plan ends this embarrassment by proposing to build new or improved branches in Pine Hills, the South End and Arbor Hill/West Hill, as well as in the New Scotland and Delaware Avenue neighborhoods. Each branch will be an education center where our children, especially ones from poor families, can get free computer access and free books (something Wolf Road bookstores don't provide, Mr. Paolucci), as well as a safe and quiet place to study after school.

What else will the bond provide? Community centers, as the libraries will include space for meetings, children's programs, lectures and study groups. New neighborhood libraries that families, the elderly and teenagers can walk to. What better way to keep residents in the city and make suburbanites jealous of the city life?

The library board is proposing to do all this for $29.1 million, a far more modest proposal than its original $65 million plan (rebuilding the main branch has been postponed). For the owner of a $125,000 home, that's just $59 a year, the price of a few hardcover books or CDs. That's not a burden, Mr. Paolucci, that's a smart bargain we can't afford to pass up.



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