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Greenburgh Library Patronage High Despite Budget Cuts

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Despite early-year budget cuts that caused staff reductions and a freeze on purchasing new DVDs, books and audio books, the Greenburgh Public Library 's patronage has not dipped.

In January, library Director Eugenie Contrata was caught off guard when the Town Board slashed an additional 9 percent of its funding, adding up to an 18 percent decrease from the previous year. The $2.6 million the library received from the town, plus an additional $450,000 from its reserve fund, was not enough to buy new items.

“At the beginning of the year, we had no money at all,” said John Sexton, the Greenburgh Public Library’s assistant director.

However, patronage did not drop because the library focused its financial means on doubling its programming. Since the beginning of the year, the library has hosted several well-attended concerts, art exhibits, lectures, discussion groups and film screenings.

“The springtime worked out really well because we had more people using the library than ever before,” Sexton said. “The book checkout level stayed relatively unchanged because of the number of people in the building. The patronage has not gone down at all. In these economic times, the library has become much more used. People are coming into the library almost in unprecedented numbers. It has become a more and more popular place.”

A recent visitor told Sexton that she enjoys visiting the library because no one expects her to buy anything. The library is available to county residents who wish to read, study or hold meetings.

Patrons can also rejoice that the library gained $66,000 in May, allowing it to purchase recent bestselling books and DVDs. The town saved money on medical insurance, meaning that the library was able to recoup $58,000. In addition, the nonprofit group Friends of the Greenburgh Public Library gave $8,000 after recalculating programming budget needs.

“We focused on purchasing the most popular items,” said Sexton. “We’re purchasing the materials people want most because we don’t have the ability to meet the normal breadth of service. We want to meet the needs of the long-term library users.”

Sexton said he is unsure about next year’s funding , which is based on the town’s decisions.

“Is it going to be reasonable, is it going to be feasible? We don’t know,” he said. “But at some point, if the investment the community makes in its library is not robust enough, the library will wither and die. If you look around, that’s a struggle in many communities.”

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