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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 30, 2009

Fraterrigo, Wheeler set for library seats

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — An old hand and a newcomer are making uncontested runs for the Guilderland Library Board of Trustees.

Barbara Fraterrigo has been on the board since the library had an elected board, that is, for 21 years.

Brian Wheeler is making his first run for public office.

“A few years ago, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” said Wheeler. “Now that I’ve got children, I want to see them well educated.”

Wheeler and his wife, Liza, have a 16-month-old son and another baby due next month. Originally from Horseheads, N.Y., Wheeler works in information technology (IT) for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Fraterrigo, too, first got interested in the library because of her children.

She grew up in Massachusetts, and graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston with a major in chemistry and biology and a minor in teaching. She taught pre-med students embryology at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

She and her husband, Philip, a doctor, moved to Guilderland in 1972. They have five children.

“The schools here were wonderful,” said Fraterrigo, also a long-time Guilderland School Board member. “But there was a one-room library. “We had to go to Bethlehem or Albany for the kids’ schoolwork.”

Fraterrigo helped with the move to make the free library into a school district library, giving it the power to tax and have an elected board. Fraterrigo was elected to the first board in 1988 and has been a trustee ever since.

“Education and books have always been the love of my life,” she said.

The Guilderland library board has 11 members. Two seats are open this year. The posts are unpaid and carry a five-year term. Guilderland School District residents will vote for the library trustees on May 19 when they will also vote on the library’s $3.13 million budget as well as the school district budget and school board members.

The library board sets the library budget. Fraterrigo said she “absolutely” supports the budget. “We pared down anything we could pare down,” she said, calling it a bare bones budget. (For the full story on the library budget, go to www.altamontenterprise.com under Guilderland archives for April 9, 2009.)

Fraterrigo went on about the budget proposal, “You have to meet the built-in staff increases. You want your employees paid a fair wage.” She said the budget had just one “very necessary extra — a part-time IT person.”

“Things were breaking down and it was just overwhelming,” she said.

Wheeler hopes to help in that area. “I’d like to help shape and focus the technology department, the digital media” he said. “I’d like to watch and help that evolve.”

He also said that one of his goals is “to lobby for more money.” The sate has cut funding to libraries in recent years and, as interest from investments has decreased in the recession, the burden on taxpayers has increased.

While the recession has sharply increased library use, both candidates were wary about proceeding any time soon with a planned expansion.

The library moved to its new building in 1992. “The needs are there,” said Fraterrigo. “We supposedly had a 20-year plan but we outgrew it in 10 years.” There is strong need in the community for meeting rooms and for computer access, said Fraterrigo. “Usage in this lousy economy has skyrocketed,” she said.

But, Fraterrigo said, the expansion project is “definitely waiting in the wings.” She said of the library board members, “We are just common, ordinary, everyday citizens, experiencing the same [recession] as our citizens are experiencing.”

Wheeler agreed. “It is hard to open a new project when there is a budget crunch. My personal feeling,” he said of the expansion project, “is we should hold back and re-evaluate in a few months.”

Fraterrigo went on to praise the wide range of programs developed by the staff. This includes exercise classes for senior citizens and book discussion groups in nursing homes at one end of the age spectrum as well as creative story hours and projects for youngsters and teens at the other end of the age spectrum.

“I’m just so proud of what our library has done for the community,” said Fraterrigo.

She describes herself as a constant reader and has most recently completed a novel, How to Be Lost, by Amanda Eyre Ward. “It’s a delightful easy read,” Fraterrigo said, about how a missing 5-year-old girl affects the entire family. “They’re always in search of her,” said Fraterrigo. “I won’t tell you the ending.”

Wheeler likes to watch library videos with his son. “I love the educational videos, like National Geographic,” he said. Among his son’s favorites are the “VeggieTales,” about animated vegetables that teach “important life lessons,” said Wheeler.

Tom Clancy, who writes thrillers, often with military themes, is his favorite author. Said Wheeler, “He captivates me.”

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