By LIZ BUTTON
The annual 2013 report to members of the Rye Free Reading Room reflected positive developments for the library, which experienced a number of changes last year including the hiring of new Executive Director Chris Shoemaker in June and, in November, the receipt of increased city funding to support longer hours of operation.
Adding these hours, which made closing time on Thursday nights 8 p.m., up from 5:30 p.m., is part of the process of slowly reincorporating some of the hours reduced over the years due to tight finances. Until 2010, the library was open seven days a week, Shoemaker said.
Under former Republican Mayor Douglas French, the City Council authorized the $60,000 increase for more hours in the library’s 2014 budget at its Nov. 20, 2013 meeting, raising the library’s city funding to $1.17 million, up from $1.11 million in 2013.
“It was no easy task to get those hours back,” Fran Rodilosso, the library’s Board of Trustees president, said.
State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, and Democratic state Assemblyman Steve Otis, a former Rye mayor, were in attendance at the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees and library members on Feb. 9, at which Rodilosso delivered an annual report and announced the election of two new trustees, Bill Fallon and Paula Gamache, a former city councilwoman who served from 2008 to 2011 and was the City Council’s liaison to the library.
Recently elected Councilwoman Kristin Bucci, a Republican, is the current liaison to the library. Her tenure follows that of former Councilman Rich Filippi.
When it comes to raising money for staff and programs, the library gets roughly $1.1 million per year from the city and conducts community fundraising in the form of its annual giving campaign.
“During the height of the recession, funding was so tight that the library had to reduce hours and staff in order to continue to cover normal cost increases,” Rodilosso said.
But membership contributions have crawled back up over the last two years as the economy has improved, Rodilosso said, and there was even a small budget surplus last year.
According to the library’s annual report, 74 percent of the library’s 2013 operating budget was spent on personnel costs. The library employs 30 people.
In addition to advocating for the library to secure increased funding for hours, when he first came on board this summer, Shoemaker also worked with the library’s 18 trustees to go over the Rye Free Reading Room’s five-year strategic plan, which was implemented on June 25, 2013. The review of the library’s strategic priorities was led, since 2012, by Strategic Planning Committee chairman Mark Zwerger.
Shoemaker also helped the library celebrate the building’s 100th anniversary since its construction on the village green in 1913, which began last year with a kickoff event in September. The celebration will continue throughout next year.
Other changes at the library, according to Shoemaker, include new data that indicates patrons’ use of eBooks went up 172 percent over 2013. Shoemaker said he has made use of library funds to advance eBook use, especially since publishers’ eBook prices have come down recently. The library has been stocking the shelves with the hot titles, which can be downloaded from the website even when the library building is closed.
Future plans for the library include implementing more teen programs. Currently, the library is getting ready to implement an after-school tutoring program for teens in math and English.
“We have started to work more closely with teens in order to help them bring some of these new programs to life,” said Shoemaker, who prior to joining Rye, was head of the teen programs at the New York City Public Library System.
The library is also continuously upgrading its collections and access to technology, he said, and staff is working on building a children’s discovery area with iPads that feature educational apps.