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Library sale highlights budget shortfalls

AMENIA — The Amenia Free Library held its fall book and bake sale this past weekend, netting a total profit of about $520. It wasn’t the most successful sale the library has ever held, for certain, but what it may have highlighted is the difficult financial spot the library’s board will be in the months ahead.

“What $520 will be enough to pay for is another week or two of expenses,” library board Treasurer Charlotte Murphy said after the event. “But there are all kinds of costs, and it’s going to be tight getting through the year.”

The library holds two book and bake sales annually, one in the summer and one in the fall. The summer sale is usually the larger of the two, and Murphy acknowledged that due to the conflicting schedules of board members, last weekend’s sale wasn’t as organized as events have been in the past.

The book and bake sale is second in fundraising totals only to the library’s annual fundraising letter, which is sent out every February. That letter collected more than $4,000 for the library this year, which operates on a budget of approximately $60,000, most of which comes from the town.

But as Murphy pointed out, the trickle-down effect of the economy is putting additional pressure on small town libraries that they haven’t seen before. Due to budget cutbacks, the Mid-Hudson Library System was forced to pass down the costs of book deliveries (about $1,000 for four deliveries to Amenia this year, Murphy said) as well as $2,500 that had been used for the library’s summer programming.

“We really are pretty bare-boned,” Murphy said. “We’ll be doing our last book committee meeting of the year to order books soon, and then won’t order more until the end of the year. Other than that, what can you do? We can’t cut employees any more than we have already. It’s a problem.”

The library has had at least one saving grace recently that has allowed it to continue to offer unique programming: A $42,000 donation from the sale of the Amenia Nursery building has been specifically earmarked for use in developing a children’s learning program. Lesley Gyorsok was brought on last year to helm the program, and the funds used to pay her and operating costs have not affected the library’s overall budget and will not for at least two more years, Murphy said. After that is an unknown.

“But we feel that program has been a big accomplishment on our part,” she said. “And we’re right on target currently as far as covering those costs.”

In a worst-case scenario, Murphy said, the library might need to close one day of the week. But that’s a slippery slope, she pointed out, and one that is not high up on anyone’s list.

“I certainly don’t want to do that,” she stressed, “and I don’t think there’s anyone else on the board that wants to do that, either.”

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