Despite a cut in funding, residents from around the county said they want to see more library programs at their branches.
Library Director Karen Bradley asked for public input at a community meeting Monday night. She said she wanted to be sure the library offered the most effective programs with its limited dollars. But residents said they wanted more of what the libraries already offer.
More computer programs. More tutors. More reading programs. And many, many more community programs, from book clubs to parenting group meetings.
About 45 people attended, breaking up into small groups to facilitate discussion.
Rosalind Kotz said her group thought the Hamilton Hill branch should run a “young mothers” group, perhaps with an informal book club meeting after-hours.
“They might find the library a welcoming, non-judgmental space,” she said.
Other groups said libraries need to help build communities by becoming a gathering point for various groups. Some branches offer space now — group members cited a craft room at the Scotia branch — but many residents said much more space in needed.
Another woman said the libraries should expand their storytime programs, perhaps emphasizing a “back to books” theme that encouraged reading rather than playing with iPhones.
“I saw a change in my grandson. He was on the iPhone,” said Carol Collura. “Now he wants easy-reader books, he wants his own storytime with his stuffed animals or me or his mom.”
She added that it took a few weeks for the children to connect to books.
“As it progressed, they would interact. They would voice their opinions,” she said.
Bradley said it’s not just children that are drawn to tiny, glowing screens. She said she can get children to interact with books — but she can’t get the smartphones out of their parents’ hands.
“We have this wonderful early literacy center, but the parents and caregivers are on their digital devices. Should we make the early literacy center a digital-free zone?” she asked.
She said children need interaction with their parents, who could ask them about the books and encourage discussion.
But Schenectady’s older children need help, too. Schools Superintendent Laurence Spring has said 6,000 of the district’s students are reading below grade level. That got some residents’ attention.
“The numbers are abysmal,” said resident Tony Gaddy.
His group suggested librarians organize reading groups aimed at older children, which the school district could advertise.
But most group members said the library’s priorities should be more computer classes and community gathering space.