Friday, August 19, 2011

Fexib* (for Flexib*)

Senate bill S5244-2011, recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, grants the NYS Board of Regents the so-called flexibility to order the New York State Library to close on a weekday by updating a law that required it to be open Monday through Friday. When the Library (which shares a building with the State Museum and State Archives) opened on Saturdays last October in the midst of a budget crisis, it was paid for by closing the State Museum on Sunday. When that created an uproar, this legislation was passed in order to reopen the Museum to visitors on Sunday by closing the Library and Archives to researchers on a weekday, thereby doubling down on a dumb idea. This confers an air of fecklessness onto an already stressed out and vastly depleted workforce, in addition to the public it purportedly claims to serve. (Not to mention the legislators and administrators largely responsible for the longstanding fiscal fiasco we call our operating budget.) While adding hours on Saturday (the slowest day of the week) was a worthy goal, the Library's principal clientele is dependent upon "normal" weekday hours, and it depends on far more staff and service considerations than the guards, janitors, and gift-shop volunteers who basically run the Museum on weekends. Simply put, the Library can not be expected to "shutter its doors" for one or two days a week just so it can align itself with the busiest traffic day of the Museum, which has an entirely different mission. It might be a feel-good PR move to continue squeezing the remaining Library staff since instituting Saturday hours nine months ago, on the heels of drastic layoffs, but we are only just so flexible. Regrettably, this is just another sad chapter in the decline of this formerly great research institution, which can no longer even afford to buy books. Remember them? Fexib* was found seven times in OhioLINK and 105 times in WorldCat.

(The Cultural Education Center, which houses the New York State Library, the State Museum, and the State Archives, June 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid (with help from the staff)

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