The decision to open the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library on Sundays is a good move by the village. Valley Stream has one of the few libraries in Nassau County that is closed on Sundays, and that is unacceptable.
We have concerns, however, about the way this move will be executed, and we’re not sure that simply shifting existing resources is the best answer. The addition of Sunday hours is supposed to be an enhancement of services for the small but vibrant library, but four hours during the week will be lost to make up for the added Sunday hours.
There are several reasons why those additional hours are a good idea. First and foremost, the Waldinger Library serves more than 40,000 residents of the village and the South Valley Stream library district. That’s not small potatoes, and even if a fraction of those people used the library on a Sunday, that still could be a few thousand people taking advantage of this new service. Many people don’t have computers at home, and rely on the library for access to technology. Making these resources available seven days a week, at least during the school year, is a win for residents.
Second, we admire the village’s ambition to win back the North Valley Stream Library District, which would bring in several hundred thousand dollars a year. When the district was first formed, patrons chose to join the Waldinger Library. But it could no longer compete with the Elmont Memorial Library when that facility opened its new building in 2006, complete with a theater and meeting rooms — amenities that Valley Stream doesn’t offer. It has to find other ways to appeal to library patrons in North Valley Stream.
Valley Stream has a chance to win back the contract in 2015. The library already offers a rich variety of programs despite limited space. But it needs to show that it can match Elmont’s level of service, and the addition of Sunday hours is a good start.
We would like to see those new hours simply added to the hours the library offers during the week. Taking away time on weekdays is only robbing Peter to pay Paul. The village board, which determines funding for the library, should commit to providing some additional staff so the library can truly offer the most hours and best service possible.
We understand that finances are tight, and the board doesn’t want to raise taxes any more than it already has, but a small investment now could pay off big in a few years if the facility can win back the North Valley Stream library contract.
The library is open 57 hours per week and always has two librarians available. When the Sunday hours begin, however, the total will be maintained, but there will only be one librarian for four of those hours. We’re not sure how that is an improvement in service.
There are low-cost options available to the village that could make a big impact. For example, bringing in a per-diem librarian on Sundays, at a reasonable rate of $150 for four hours, would cost about $6,000 per year, little more than a rounding error in a $35.4 million budget.
Improving service at the library for patrons, and giving the facility a chance to reclaim North Valley Stream patrons, doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. But in order to do it right, it can’t be done for nothing.