After two years in the city, Rye Free Reading Room Director Kitty Little announced her resignation from that role this month.
“The real core to why I am going really has to do with the funding structure for the library,” Little said. “The library has been underfunded by the city for some time and that really impacts what library is able to do,” she said.
January marks Little’s second year at the library, and she will be leaving in February. She declined to comment on what her next steps will be, but said customers will see very little change and should feel confident in the board’s ability to find a new director and keep things running smoothly.
In Rye City, the municipality funds 72 percent of the library’s operating budget. The rest of the funding comes from its annual campaign, contributions through the library’s auxiliary board, gifts (which are often designated) and from drawing down on its endowment, which has legal restrictions, Little said. The city initially proposed a flat budget for the library in 2013, but received an extra $30,000 at the final hour, which makes the total Rye Free Reading room budget $1,110,000. Even with the additional money, the library will not be able to keep the doors open the hours they are currently open, Little said.
Because the library relies heavily on donations, this year has been “the perfect storm,” Little said, because of Hurricane Sandy.
Donations normally sent to the library have been diverted to Hurricane Sandy Relief this year, and the library has felt the blow. Volunteers are less abundant after large disasters like Sandy as well.
“We are seeing a situation where the city is expecting volunteers to fund a core public service and it has not stepped up to plate to fund the public library the way I believe they should be serviced,” Little said.
More funding could have gone towards more adult programs, funding more staff to stay open evenings, more mornings and weekends, expanding digital collections and making the community room more available, Little said.
While she gripes about the funding issue, Little is proud of what she managed to accomplish during her two years in Rye, including: a new financial management system, new website, larger e-book collection and repurposing the second floor for a Teen Center, recovery from Hurricane Irene.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we’ve been able to maximize municipal dollars we have,” Little said.
The library’s board of trustees has a strong plan and will look for a new director in coming months, Little said.
“The library is on a very strong footing,” she said. “Customers will see little change in day-to-day types of things.