GLENS FALLS — Crandall Public Library officials believe their role is becoming more about making connections for people rather than just housing physical materials.
“We are a community center. We work very diligently with approximately 190 other nonprofits and for-profits to connect people to what they need,” said Kathy Naftaly in a meeting Thursday with The Post-Star editorial board.
The library has quietly launched a new website called the Southern Adirondack Network Guide to provide information about services in this region that can, for example, help veterans receive benefits, or victims of domestic violence find medical care or people in need find food banks.
The website, sanghelp.org, received startup funding from the Glens Falls Foundation.
Naftaly said her staff already gets calls from people who need help finding services. The new network formalizes that relationship.
“We’re looking at the most basic needs that everyone in our region has and how we can assist people linking up with what they need to survive,” she said.
Half the time of one of the library’s staff members has been dedicated to adding to the list and checking to make sure it is accurate and up to date, Naftaly said.
Although the new network is designed for people living on the edges, it can be helpful for anybody, she said.
“I think this may be one of our most important activities that we’ll be doing and sustain indefinitely,” she said.
Setting up a human services clearinghouse is a sea change in the library’s services, she said, but libraries across the country are adapting to the needs of their communities.
For example, she said Chicago’s library created spaces where young people can create music and videos, giving them activities as alternatives to the chaos and violence of the streets. San Francisco libraries are working to address the needs of that city’s large homeless population.
Naftaly shared an anecdotal example of a patron who would loiter around her library and play on the computer.
“Over time, with a lot of TLC, he now has three part-time jobs. He’s cleaned himself up,” she said.
Naftaly said the man has connected with services and gotten off the bottle.
She is grateful her staff has been able to help this person, following the library’s new tag line: “Your story. Our mission.”
“We’ve helped his story shift at this point,” she said.
Naftaly said Crandall Public Library is grateful it has a large endowment and benefits from trusts that can help fund these initiatives. The library also obtains grants to supplement funding from its taxing district.
A new program that offers books by mail to anyone in the three communities is completely grant-funded, she said. The service helps people who are shut in or elderly and have trouble getting to the building.
About three-quarters of the library’s funding comes from taxes. The proposed 2019 budget going before voters is $4.62 million, an increase of about $100,000, or 2.25 percent, from this year’s spending plan.
The total amount collected through taxes from the city of Glens Falls, towns of Queensbury and Moreau and Warren County would increase by $144,510, or 4.16 percent, to nearly $3.62 million. The increase in the tax levy for each community is under the tax cap.
Naftaly said the library tries to be frugal in its spending, especially on supplies. When it has had positions to fill, they have not always been filled in exactly the same way. Instead, she has re-evaluated positions and shifted some responsibilities to other staff members to better meet the needs of the organization.
Still, the library needs adequate staffing, she said.
“I don’t want to overburden staff and allowing people to absorb more and more until they reach a point of burnout,” she said.
One issue the community is going to be grappling with is broadband access, as more resources get distributed through streaming services.
The library will be able to provide these resources, but Naftaly said if people do not have reliable and affordable internet service, they won’t be able to access them.
Crandall Public Library will be working on its next strategic plan beginning in January to come up with a road map for the next three years. Naftaly said the library will continue to adapt.
“We have to be nimble and we have to be able to adapt to things we haven’t even imagined yet,” she said.