The Board of Trustees of the Haxton Memorial Library has formally requested that the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District hold a vote on whether the Haxton Memorial Library’s governance and funding structure should change to a school district public library. The voters will be asked to vote on the proposition on May 16, 2023 at the same time and place of the Oakfield-Alabama School budget vote.
The Haxton Memorial Library Board of Trustees has decided to pursue becoming a school district public library in order to stabilize its funding and provide elected representation to the residents of the school district. The Haxton Memorial Library is not alone in this effort. In fact, the New York State Board of Regents urges libraries like the Haxton Memorial Library to become districts in order to subject library funding questions to a direct public vote.
As a school district public library, the Haxton Memorial Library’s chartered service area would become larger than it is currently as it would become the same as the school district’s, thus the name School District Public Library. The library’s community-based funding would be voted upon by the qualified voters who live in the Oakfield-Alabama School District.
The library itself would remain housed in the same building, staffed by the same professionals, and governed by an independently elected board of Trustees. The school district would collect taxes on behalf of the library and turn those funds over to the library.
The school district would have no direct control over the operations of the library.
Information about this proposition was presented at a Public Meeting on Tues., March 28 at the Oakfield Government and Community Center at 7pm. The presentation slides can be seen here.
There were also two in-person meetings at the library on Thurs., April 13 at 7PM-8PM and on Sat., April 15 at 11AM-12PM for residents with questions.
The library has operated with a flat and/or decreasing budget while its funding has decreased over the past several years. The Haxton Memorial Library has not been able to order the materials, keep up with technology, and provide the programs to meet patron needs. In addition, patrons have asked for the library to increase beyond its 25 hour per weekly schedule. The impact of New York State’s mandatory minimum wage laws that took effect from 2017- 2021 have also created significant budget challenges for the library. Without a secure and sustainable source of operating income, the future of the Haxton Memorial Library is uncertain. Without stable funding, it is likely that the number of hours the library is open would need to be reduced, there would need to be reductions in staffing and programs, there would be fewer purchases of books, periodicals, and other materials and services, and the library may eventually have to close.