Buffalo & Erie County Public Library leaders are trying a new tactic this year in their quest to restore library funding: asking patrons to send postcards to the county executive's office.
People who have checked out books at the 37 libraries throughout Erie County this month have been asked to fill out postcards calling on County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to "turn the lights back on at all the libraries in Buffalo and Erie County" by providing $3.6 million more next year to keep the branches open more hours and revive library programs.
"You promised to support libraries," state the postcards, which are pre-addressed for the county executive's Rath Building office.
The public outreach campaign coincides with a $25.5 million request for county funding that library trustees submitted to Poloncarz for 2013. It asks the county executive and county legislators to increase county support for the libraries by 16.5 percent next year to restore library hours cut in 2011 at branches throughout the county and to bring back programs, training and other outreach efforts.
The budget request includes a list of priorities for services that library trustees hope to restore, with the top priority being 5,100 hours of service throughout the system. Other concerns are expanding programming and staffing at various branches.
"I call it a needs and necessity list," said Library Director Mary Jean Jakubowski. "I say that because the services that we provide to the residents of Erie County are being demanded. Our statistics continue to rise, and without having, in particular, the funding for the service hours that we've lost, we are not meeting the needs of the residents."
Poloncarz will release his first county budget next month. Until then, his spokesman said Monday, he will not discuss any departmental budget requests.
But a four-year plan the county executive put out in April forecast only a slight increase in library funding if the county's tax revenue grows. That plan called for the library to receive 1 percent, or about $200,000, more next year.
County funding for the library system has decreased during the last decade, starting with major cuts during the 2004-05 budget crisis. Library officials hope to appeal to Poloncarz, who took office in January after a campaign in which he made libraries and cultural funding a top issue.
In addition to the postcards, which Jakubowski said were paid for with private funds, the library has a page on its website that includes information about the proposed budget and allows users to sign up as a supporter of its efforts.
"We're trying to really make it well-known that we are a significant institution to this community," Jakubowski said. "I think, honestly, that goes without saying, but we want to demonstrate that."
Poloncarz must send his 2013 budget proposal to the County Legislature by Oct. 15.
Peter Anderson, a spokesman for Poloncarz, said the county executive had not yet seen any of the postcards the library is circulating.
"We do take constituent communications seriously," said Anderson, adding that any resident who contacts the county executive's office with a postcard that includes a name and address will receive a response.