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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 15, 2008
Three candidates vie for two seats on the V’ville library board
By David S. Lewis
VOORHEESVILLE Three candidates are vying for two seats on the five-member library board. Terms for members of the board are five years.
Voorheesville residents will vote on the budget for the Voorheesville Public Library on May 20 at the high school, along with the school district’s proposed budget, from 2 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Voters will also choose two candidates for the library board from the three candidates running, Richard Ramsey, Bryan Richmond, and Rebecca Pahl.
“I think they are looking for someone who loves the library, and loves reading, and who represents their interests,” said library director Gail Alter Sacco. “I think voters will want someone who is looking at the building renovation;” she said, “for someone who has the ability to look toward the library’s future.”
The unpaid posts carry a term of five years.
Rebecca Pahl, 32, says that her background will give her valuable tools with which to continue serving the board.
“My experience as an educator and as a parent gives me a unique perspective on the issues facing the board in the future,” said Pahl. who was appointed to the board last year and is making her initial run.
Pahl was born and raised in Voorheesville, and has lived there for most of her life. She attended the University of Hartford, receiving her masters’ degree in special education.
She attended Syracuse University, where she graduated with a double major in history and policy studies. Pahl was also named Syracuse University Scholar and Remembrance Scholar.
Pahl taught special education for six years before resigning her position to stay at home with her daughter. She served on the Committee for Preschool Education in North Colonie. She said her background would give her valuable tools for a position on the board.
Currently an adjunct professor at Russell Sage College in Troy, Pahl said she and her husband, Kurt, moved back to Voorheesville because they wanted to raise their family in the village. A member of the local Kiwanis chapter, she has been secretary since October 2006 and co-chair of the Kiwanis’s Relay for Life committee. Pahl also coordinated the Kiwanis’ elementary-level Read-A-Thon.
“I feel like I have a real sense of Voorheesville since I have lived here my whole life,” said Pahl. “I want to give back to the community; I think it is truly a special place.” Her father, C. James coffin is a long-time member of the Voorheesville school board.
When a spot became open on the library board last year, Pahl was the only person to submit an application. She was appointed to the board last September. Pahl said she is proud of her work on the library’s budget.
“I know we worked really hard to create a budget that was as fiscally conservative as possible,” she said. “We worked hard to keep the increase as small as possible and still continue to provide the people with the services they’ve been getting, and to improve and expand them as well.”
Like Ramsey, she commended the community on supporting the library.
“It is rare to hear an ill word about the library,” she said. “And we really appreciate that kind of support from the community.”
Pahl says she is supportive of the library’s plan to build, and said fiscally-responsible growth is critical to ensuring that the new library meets the community’s needs without placing too heavy a burden on the taxpayers.
“I think we need to research all of our options and make sure we know what direction we are going,” said Pahl. “Whatever direction we go, we need to be looking ahead to the future.”
“We want to make sure we design a facility that will accommodate population growth as well as technology growth,” she concluded.
Pahl said she had recently visited the Clifton Park library and was impressed by the sustainable engineering implemented in the design of the building.
“There are lots of different options,” she pointed out. “They really focused on green building; they used recycled materials, they built in an energy-efficient way, waste water recycling, and the floor was made of cork,” she said. (Cork is a fast-growing wood, and has recently become popular as it is considered a renewable resource.)
“I would hope the board looks at that as something we would consider as one of our options,” she said of green building, “if it were fiscally responsible and would have continuing benefits for the library.”
“Also, it’s important that the library be able to maintain its current services to the public during the expansion process,” said Pahl.
Pahl said that, while it was difficult to choose only one favorite book, hers was Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.
“It is one of the few books I have reread,” she said. “It has the story of someone on the journey of finding themselves and it has a strong and interesting female character sort of looking for her place in the world.”
Richard Ramsey, 68, says he loves the library and is running on his record. Ramsey has served on the Voorheesville Library board for the last six years, and has been its president for the last three.
“I love the library,” says Ramsey. “My whole family has been involved with the libraries, here and in Schenectady. I am in here once or twice a week, even when I wasn’t on the board, checking out books and videos.”
Raised in Schenectady, Ramsey has lived in Voorheesville for 30 years. He retired from the New York State Office of Mental Health in 1995. He received his degree from Harper College, now the State University of New York at Binghamton. He said he has also been working on two unfinished master’s degrees, one in hospital administration and one in American history. Since retiring, he was the supervisor of payroll and personnel for the 2000 Census for the Capital District and worked for The Bethesda House, a day-shelter in Schenectady.
Ramsey currently works for Measured Progress, a Kelly Services-owned company that scores standardized tests.
Ramsey said that he is especially impressed by the library’s attentiveness to the needs of children.
“A lot of programs we offer are for reading,” he said. “These kids who show up for summer reading, the number of them, it’s amazing.”
Most of the credit is due the library’s director, Gail Sacco, and the library’s staff, he said.
“I think it is the work of director and staff,” he said. “They handle situations well, and they are always looking ahead. I think they are our greatest asset,” he concluded.
Ramsey described the budget as a careful balancing act in which the needs of the community are weighed carefully against the need to keep the library strong and relevant.
“We try to keep the percentage down, we really try to keep it down, because there are certainly other taxes they have to pay,” he explained. “But we also try to keep expanding in areas that we have presently and in new areas, so we don’t get lost.”
Ramsey commended the current board’s discernment and said the budget had been carefully scrutinized.
“The board has done a good job of taking a hard look and saying, this is reasonable, and this isn’t,” he said.
Ramsey also called for the board, and voters, to ensure that the library remains prepared for the future, which includes the careful planning of the expansion project.
“Sometimes people get bound in tradition, and if we don’t keep looking forward we’ll get bogged down,” he said.
A fan of thrillers and spy stories, Ramsey said he had found a new favorite author, Alan Furst, who writes World War II-era spy novels. Ramsey is currently reading Furst’s Blood of Victory, which he said was exciting and full of interesting history.
Bryan Richmond, 30, said that he has been a devoted supporter of the library since a very young age. Also a life-long denizen of the village, Richmond graduated from Voorheesville’s high school and worked at the library for nearly seven years, first as a page and then later at the circulation and reference desks. He has worked at other libraries as well.
“I have definitely become a connoisseur of libraries, and Voorheesville is one of my favorites,” said Richmond. “Although I have worked for larger libraries, such as the State University at Albany library, and the Albany Law School’s Schaefer Library, none can capture the unique sense of community I have come to appreciate at the Voorheesville Library.”
Richmond also praised the community for its active involvement with the library.
“We have something special about our library,” he said. “It is small but well used and well supported by our community.”
Richmond, a graduate of the University at Albany and the Albany Law School, practices civil defense law, and has worked on everything from product liability to labor law.
Richmond believes that a fresh board member with different ideas could help the board as it prepares for the future. He sees the proposed expansion as paramount in the board’s decision-making for the coming years.
“We face a lot of important decisions over the next few years,” he said. “We are looking at the potentials of building a new library, and there’s a real need to have some differences of opinion and a variety of backgrounds represented on the board.”
Richmond noted that some diversity would serve the community well.
“Richard Ramsey has been on the board for a very long time; he was there when I was a youth,” said Richmond, acknowledging Ramsey’s service to the library, but expressing the idea that a new face could be good for the board.
“My favorite book is 1984, by George Orwell; it was the first book I read of that genre and turned me on to books and ideas I hadn’t considered before,” said Richmond. “It warns of the dangers of technology and same-mindedness, and the need for a variety of backgrounds; I certainly think that is true with regards to the board.”
Richmond is also a member of the library’s building committee, which plays an advisory role to the expansion project.
“I have stayed involved in the Voorheesville library and am aware of many opportunities and challenges it will face in the years ahead,” concluded Richmond.
Marginal increase of V’ville operating budget does not affect new home for tomes
By David S. Lewis
NEW SCOTLAND Residents can expect to pay four cents per $1,000 of property assessment if they pass Voorheesville $962,000 library budget. On May 20. Most of the increase is to pay the debt service on the land the library purchased last year.
The spending plan is up from last year’s $930,000, for an increase of 4.4 percent. That includes the 3.4 percent increase for debt service on the property purchased for the new expansion; last year voters agreed to buy the land for $100,000, plus an additional $50,000 to start exploring possibilities for the expansion, including architectural costs and the community survey, financed over a five-year period for $30,000 annually. The operating budget increased by only 1 percent, well under the predicted cost-of-living increase.
“One of the messages that is very important to the board, is that we are very careful with how we spend our money,” said library director Gail Alter Sacco. “I want to make it clear that we only increased our operating budget by the 1 percent; the rest of the increase is to cover the debt service for the land we bought for the expansion.”
This year’s operating budget is $931,700, which is an increase of $33,000. The largest part of the budget goes to staff expenses, which total $675,500 including salaries and benefits. Although estimated costs for postage increase by $200, the library anticipates spending $500 less on travel and conference costs this year.
The tax rate for FY 2007-08 was $1.06 per every $1,000 assessed; the tax rate for this year’s proposed budget is $1.10.
Plans to expand
Sacco said that the library’s addition project was still in the works, and that, although she and the library board had met with an architect and visited libraries he had constructed, they did not yet have a finalized design.
“Right now, we’re taking the survey and trying to determine where the new library would fit with the old library, and with the land we’ve purchased,” said Sacco.
The property where the expansion will be constructed is behind the existing library. Sacco said that plans for the expansion included more space for children and family activities. more community space, and more space for reading areas.
The library also plans to devote more space to electronic media such as DVDs and “e-books,” literature that is downloadable to iPods and other mobile devices. Sacco said that, with an increasing demand for such media, the library would continue to provide and expand both the selection and amount of space for electronic media, however, that provision shall not preclude the library’s collection of books.
“We’ve added around 4,600 items this year,” said Sacco. “And most of them were books.”
Parking was also something that needs to be addressed, according to Sacco, who said that parking was occasionally tight, especially during the summer concerts.
The library, which offers many programs such as poetry readings and an astronomy program, also features monthly book discussions, which librarian Suzanne Fisher said are taken quite seriously by the 30 or so people who sign up for them each month.
“It’s a social thing, certainly, but the people who come are very serious about what they read and they come to discuss it,” said Fisher, who was feted as an outstanding librarian by The New York Times several years ago. “They are serious about the books; they want to talk about the books; they want to be introduced to new books; and they want to read the classics they never got to.”
“It’s a very vibrant group,” she concluded.
Fisher plans to take a group of 20 to France, following the travels of American novelist and expatriate, Edith Wharton, who spent the last 26 years of her life in France. The trip is the culmination of The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in which an entire community reads the same book simultaneously; this year’s selection was Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
While e-books and other electronic media are increasing in popularity, both Sacco and Fisher said that the community can rest assured that the library’s attention to books is not waning. Of the 46,000 items in the library’s collection, most are books; this year the library spent $86,000 on 4,600 new items, most of which were books.
Sacco also said that the library is a sound investment when the economy is down.
“When you have a hard year, the number of people who visit go up, and people take advantage of the services that we offer here,” said Sacco. “Every library I’ve talked to, all talk about increased services; in general, it is going up now.”
Sacco said that 8,300 people attended programs at the Voorheesville library last year, and that the library was visited 71,000 times. The library is intended to service the residents of the Voorheesville School District, of which the total number of residents is 7,300. By law, it follows the boundaries of the school district, although it is governed by its own board. As a public library, it has taxing power.