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BARKER – Barker residents will vote next month on turning the Barker Free Library into a public school district library and the library’s Board of Trustees will offer the opportunity for personal discussions on the topic Tuesday and Friday.

Board members will be available to answer questions from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, with both meetings scheduled for the library at 8706 Main St.

The polls will be open for the vote from noon to 8 p.m. May 21 at the Barker High School Auditorium to coincide with the school district budget vote.

The library proposal includes a fee of 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This would cost a resident with a home assessed at $100,000 a total annual charge of $31, for example. This would establish an annual library budget of $75,000, which would require another public vote at a later date to change.

“I don’t anticipate any changes in the budget for many years,” said Roy Anderson, president of the library’s Board of Trustees.

Currently, the Village of Barker, Towns of Somerset and Hartland and Barker School District help finance operation of the library and library board members have been appointed, rather than elected.

Anderson said the board has decided to pursue the school district public library status as a means of stabilizing the library’s funding and providing elected representation to the taxpayers.

The New York State Board of Regents has long urged libraries to shift tax support from municipalities to a public vote. If approved, the Barker School District would collect the library fee and turn it over to the library’s Board of Directors. The schools would have no control over the library. Other nearby public school district libraries include; Lockport, Medina, Royalton-Hartland and Lyndonville.

Comparing statistics from 2005 to 2011, the number of regular borrowers at the Barker Library nearly tripled, with circulation rising more than 7,000 units in those six years, according to the library. Library visits during that span doubled.

Anderson explained that while library usage has increased steadily, the library has experienced funding shortfalls requiring the use of reserve funds to pay for operating expenses.

“The future of the library and what services we will be able to provide very much depends on the outcome of the upcoming vote,” said Anderson.

With current revenue streams narrowing, the library faces the possibility of reducing hours of operation, cutting staffing and programming, and impacting the purchase of new items such as books and periodicals, library officials said.

“We encourage residents to attend our one-one-one meeting sessions to get the facts and to ask questions,” he added. “We want to make sure that everyone in the school district knows about the library vote and has the opportunity to have their questions answered….We have a lot of community support and we’ve been extremely forthcoming with our information. The more people understand, the more supportive they’ll be.

“The library is one of the things that attracts people to our community and keeps them here,” said Anderson. “And, it’s an asset to our students, because we also offer wireless, high-speed Internet access and many bring their laptops in here to use that. Most of the community has dial-up (access to the Internet), so we’ve even seen people parked in the parking lot at night using the Internet because it’s one of the few hot-spots around.”

Visit the library’s website at www.BarkerFreeLibrary.com to learn more about the upcoming vote. Group presentations are also planned at various local clubs’ and organizations’ meeting sites. Residents wishing to learn more may contact Anderson at 795-3987.