GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Greenburgh Library Director Eugenie Contrata and her staff were prepared for a $320,000 funding cut this year, but when the Greenburgh Town Board slashed another $250,000 in mid-December, it caught everyone off guard.
"That has put us in this very difficult spot," Contrata said. "There's absolutely a demand for library service and our programs are more popular than ever. The library is an important part of the community and we need to be supported by taxpayers."
The library, which serves approximately 44,000 people and has a collection of 186,000 items, was forced to lay off three part-time employees and eliminate the budgets for books, DVDs, music CDs, audio books and Tutor.com, a popular online, live tutoring service used by high school students.
"That was a hard one to let go because we were helping kids with school work," said Contrata, who noted 2,000 tutoring sessions last year cost the library $20,000.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner hosted a meeting Monday night attended by about 20 individuals interested in finding ways to fundraise for the library. Feiner noted similar efforts in Irvington, where $1 million was raised to help build its library, and Dobbs Ferry, where a woman donated $2 million several years ago, proved successful.
"I'm sure if we wage an aggressive campaign we'll be able to attract private donors from around the county," Feiner said. "We are going to work hard on raising private dollars to offset some of the cuts in the library budget. A professional fundraiser is donating her services to the town and going to provide the town with an outline of steps that we need to take."
An email blast Feiner sent out has already produced 17 checks totaling $700 for the library, including one for $9 that really touched Contrata.
"We're very grateful for that. We were thrilled," Contrata said of the donations. "A lot of people talk about donating books, which is great, but we really need donations of cash. We also need the flexibility to invest in what people want."
Contrata said the library was currently in violation of state education law by being open only 52 hours a week, which is three short of the required minimum. Having to further reduce staff would force the library to likely be open only five days instead of six.
"I'm very worried about next year because what do you cut, staff and hours? That would be a tragedy," she said.
Feiner said a fundraising letter for the library is planned to be sent out to the community in April.
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