The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System recently announced that it was discontinuing their bookmobile service to patrons. This came as a shock to all of the rural patrons that the bookmobile serves and many are heartsick about losing such a vital service to communities that have long been recongized as the poorest in the state of New York. Most patrons were made aware of this decision through an article in the Buffalo News.
In a letter to Bookmobile Users, Director Catherine Way expressed her gratitude for their patronage but urges them to accept the decision to cease this service.
I was a patron of this bookmobile for over 15 years. The use of the bookmobile encouraged my love of reading and eventually, my decision to become a librarian. The communities that the bookmobile serves are diverse communities ranging in users from school teachers, children, parents, retirees to the elderly. Cattaraugus County has long been considered one of the lower income areas of New York State. With the present economic problems in the United States, the economy in western New York cannot be expected to improve. In fact, history has shown that the use of libraries rise during economic hardship.
As a former resident of West Valley and a librarian, I am shocked that the Board of Trustees of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System did not seek the voice of the community in their decision. The many friends and family members that I have in western New York were not made aware that this service was in trouble. Now, they are told by Ms. Way to meekly accept that a vital service to the local communities will be stopped, while their taxes will stay the same. Libraries are accountable to the communities they serve, as is the board. From the accounts that I have read, the patrons were never consulted.
I am also a bit taken aback that the funding for the library system has been so neglected by New York State. This is a state that heavily supports libraries in eastern New York, and more specifically, New York City. We have all seen tighter budgets and seek cost savings by whatever means possible, but not to the extent that vital services are cut off. That should always remain a library’s last resort.
Patrons from the town of West Valley have decided to fight this decision. In an effort to continue bookmobile services, patrons in West Valley have begun a letter writing campaign. New York State politicans at all levels are being written to and urged to take a closer look into the funding that is necessary to continue servicing the bookmobile for patrons in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County. One local state representative, when asked about this decision to cease the services of the bookmobile, indicated that he was unaware of it.
There is a map that provides an overview of the population served by the bookmobile in Cattaraugus, versus areas with a physical library. The areas in red are bookmobile users. The map provides a clear outline as to the communities who will lose the only link they have to a public library.
Despite assurances that a stationary library is located within 12 miles, there is no public bus service to allow patrons to visit those libraries. Therefore, the elderly must rely on friends or relatives to drive them. Although school children will have the option of using their school library, this will only be during the school year. Their summer months will be spent without books, videos and all of those additional perks offered by the bookmobile. All in all, the communities presently served by the bookmobile will, in all likelihood, never venture to a stationary library.
In an effort to save the bookmobile, I am also doing my part to help in this campaign. In addition to blogging about what is happening throughout this venture, I will also be writing letters to the local politicians in New York State. I also urge all of you to write about this and fight this decision. In these economically troubled times, patrons will be turning to the library for support. They will want novels to escape from reality and resources to look for new jobs.