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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Library officials, fearing budget cut, lobby for teen programs

Updated 6:03 am, Thursday, April 24, 2014
  • Library offcials hope the budget axe won't fall on its teen services, which includes downUNDER, a space on the lower level of the Fairfield Woods Branch Library. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    Library offcials hope the budget axe won't fall on its teen services, which includes downUNDER, a space on the lower level of the Fairfield Woods Branch Library. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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After being grilled about the budget allotted foir teen services at recent Representative Town Meeting committee budget hearings, Fairfield Public Library officials are going on the offensive.

"We may have a concern," based on the April 8 committee hearing, Town Librarian Karen Ronald said, adding the library staff "thought we should let people know how much we do for teens, and how well."

The RTM will vote on the budget at its May 5 meeting, but any members planning to propose cuts are supposed to make those proposals known at the April 28 meeting.

Questions at the committee meeting centered on what a teen librarian does, and whether it was duplicating efforts at the town's schools.

But Joseph Palmer, R-4, said Republicans, with a majority on the RTM, are taking a hard look at every item in the proposed 2014-15 budget, which is roughly $286 million as approved by the Board of Finance.

"To be clear: there have been no formal adjustments proposed to any department by RTM Republicans at this time, and any speculation about what might ultimately be adjusted is premature and unfounded," he said.

Palmer said he is aware of an email being forwarded by Jennifer Laseman, teen librarian at the Fairfield Woods branch, regarding potential cuts and called the speculation "frustrating and simply a distraction."

He said his party plans to mention the librarian's email to First Selectman Michael Tetreau and "he can determine whether it is an appropriate use of departmental staff's time to be sending out such emails to the public, especially when they are not based on facts."

Laseman's email states it is library staffers' understanding that "certain RTM members are pushing to cut all funding for Teen Services at the Branch Library. Eliminating this funding will effectively kill all teen programming offered at the Branch. There will be no more downUNDER teen space after school, no on-site professional teen collection management, no support for assigned school summer reaching, no Movie Days, no Half-day School Happenings, non PEEPS Dioramas, Gifty Gala Holiday Weeks, or any of the many other programs your teens have enjoyed over the years."

At the RTM committee hearing, Ronald said the teen librarians may help with homework, lend a kind ear or point teens in the right direction to a book. The librarians, however, are not "counselors," Ronald told the panel, in response to a question.

Asked about opportunities for collaboration with the school libraries, and whether teens actually use the public libraries since school libraries are available, Ronald said the town's students use both libraries. "But our library is open late and on the weekends," she said, and added there is already collaboration, particularly on summer reading lists.

About a week after the meeting, Ronald issued a press release, complete with statistics about downUNDER and other teen services. DownUNDER is a space on the lower level of the branch library that opened in 2008, and according to Ronald, has seen over 22,000 teen visits , "often filling its 30-person capacity."

But that, she said, is just one aspect of teen services the libraries provide.

"Professional teen library specialists provide year-round curriculum support, including extensive summer reading assignment assistance that helps prevent summer learning loss. They also manage wide-ranging collections of library materials for teens, from magazines to books to eBooks and create and execute original programs for teens that meet both the instructional and entertainment needs of young people," Ronald stated in the press release.

The Fairfield Public Library's overall budget request for 2014-15 is $3.64 million, compared to a current budget of $3.57 million.