Letter: Pony Up, Greenwich Library. Bridge Digital Divide for 120 Students without Internet

Letter received Nov. 26, 2015 from Jodi Weisz:

I am heartened to hear that Selectman Drew Marzullo and members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation have called for the immediate funding of approximately 120 students in Greenwich’s public schools to gain Internet access at home.

It is ennobling that leaders in our community have pushed for an interim appropriation on this matter, realizing as I do from my years in municipal government that interim appropriations are generally reserved for main water breaks and roof collapses.

I have an idea which will prevent the need for an interim or emergency appropriation. The money, indeed, has already been allocated.

The $10,000-$50,000 in question should come out of the line item–for outreach–from the Greenwich Public Library’s budget, no later than Dec. 1, 2015.

I actually commend the BOE for guestimating the number of students/households, although I do roll my eyes that this is somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately, top-down approach to releasing the unicorn of “the digital learning initiative.”

Before a school district can succeed with a digital learning initiative it must conquer any existing digital divide. I hope this was told to you by the experts you hired!

Librarians have a professional obligation to bring attention to this matter and to conquer it as one of the public library’s first mandates. Five years ago, I told the–then–Director of the Greenwich Public Library this was an issue in Town. How did I know? From one after school visit I made to the Boys and Girls Club. Have you seen the computer room at the Boys and Girls Club lately? I did–again–just last week. Now compare it to the children’s computer area at the Greenwich Public Library. Need I say more?

Yes, colleagues, a check–covering the cost of providing Internet access to these students–needs to be given to the BOE by December 1st.

Children living in Wilbur Peck, Armstrong Court, New Lebanon, Hamilton Avenue are not surmounting the Divide with the four designated workstations at the Main Library you have set up. The adjacent 1,000 square foot room dedicated to thousands of picture books is clearly your priority along with providing “Candy Crush” access to adults who are non-residents.

The Director of the Greenwich Public Library should deliver this check to Mr. Marzullo within 2 weeks.

Indeed, not one more gallery showing; not one more “Star Wars Return of the Jedi” movie night; not one more “Healing Touch Therapy” program until the Greenwich Public Library allocates this very small amount of money – in percentage of its huge annual budget – to closing the Digital Divide in Greenwich.

If the Greenwich Public Library does not fund this by December 1st, then I staunchly question its priorities and leadership.

I do realize that Ms. Ormerod-Glenn resides in Rye, NY and that this issue may not be on her radar.

But, Ms. Ormerod-Glenn, the Digital Divide exists here in Greenwich and we want it resolved. Our students deserve more than four workstations 14-20 blocks from their homes. Their parents will not allow them to walk home late at night–back to Josephine Evaristo Avenue–alone.

This is an urgently needed appropriation. Since it is we who fund the Library, along with The Friends, we want this accomplished by the end of this year.

 

 

  • Jodi Weisz

    Closing the Digital Divide will cost the Greenwich Public Library .005% of its annual budget of 9.2 million.

    .005%

    Collaboration between the Public Library and BOE on this matter is commonsensical.

    If the Greenwich Public Library does not fund this initiative, then I do not think they can properly be touted as a Five Star Library. I will personally donate $1,000 and offer to fundraise the remaining funds to get these kids Internet access.

    Outreach services by this Library; silence on Greenwich’s Title 1 students and families, a lopsided use of its Children’s rooms, a lack of creative outreach services, dismal collaboration with other organizations, needs to be addressed.

    If I was the Director of the Greenwich Public Library everyone of my staff would be wearing a chartreuse colored wrist band with the words: Achievement Gap boldly embossed on it.

    I am, afraid, however that many of the staff of the Greenwich Public Library do not have the ambition much less awareness of this issue as the leadership is not truly invested in our Town.

    To be a truly Five Start Public Library, the Greenwich Public Library should be funding solutions to the achievement gap at $100,000 – $200,000 a year.

  • Kelsey Baumgarten

    Adults have the whole place to themselves. The librarins like people like themselves.

    Fairfield has a great library. Greenwich Library costs too much for what we get.

    Nobody is friendly there.

  • Jake Riley

    Greenwich Public Library is overrated.

    Cut its budget by 50%.

  • Diane A.

    I feel uncomfortable at this place. I like the fact that the teenagers have a place to study.

    Nobody smiles there.

  • Karen Arnold

    This library has good hours but that is about it.

    This place is a bit creepy and stinky.

    It is like the want to maintain a museum rather than run a dynamic library.

    The Cos Cob library is cute.

  • Pierre

    One person has spoken out about this. Good for you, Jodi.

    The Greenwich Public Library needs to re-examine its priorities.

    I’ll pay for these kids to get an Internet access.

    Pierre Arnaud

  • Keith Forte

    This library is dated. The staff are bores. The weirdos who hang out on the first floor are scary. I asked a male librarian there a question and he said he had vertigo and couldn’t answer my question. Lazy staff.

  • Katie M.

    I bet more than 120 kids have spotty internet access at home. SAD!

  • Jodi Weisz

    That is very kind of you Pierre. But, here’s another fact. Schools and Libraries easily qualify for something called e-rate. E-Rate is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

    All the Director of the Greenwich Public Library had–working with GPS, to do is fill out a simple application and these kids would have Internet access.

    I have done the application myself many times. It is easy, quick and true benefit to children without Internet access.

    Piedmont, a small rural school district nestled in the Appalachian foothills, uses funds from its E-rate pilot program to build a wireless network that covers the entire town, providing students and families with free Internet access at home.

    This is part of E-rate’s “Learning-on-the-go” initiative.

    Yes, you have that right a school district in Appalachian figured out how to give every.one.of.its.students.and.the.entire.town. free Internet access.

    Meanwhile, when you ask the Director of the Greenwich Public Library about this easily available Federal Program (that can be applied in very innovative ways) she blinks at you, totally unaware.

  • Terry Nichols

    The Darien Library is mostly funded by its donations not by the Town.

    I think this is how the Greenwich should do it. Too much money is spent on staff. It cost taxpayers 70% MORE per check-out in Greenwich than it does in Darien!!!

    What a waste of taxpayers’ money.

  • Ben O’Malley

    New York should pay to run the Greenwich Public Library’s computer stations. That is who uses all of the computers on the first floor.

    Meanwhile the children in the Boys and Girls clubs, the kids who go to Ham Ave and Julian Curtiss have no computers, no internet access at home, no library within 10-20 blocks.

    Shame of the Greenwich Public Library for not being forward thinking and forgetting about who they should be serving.

    The Darien Library is so much more connected to its Town than Greenwich.

    Greenwich spends 10 million dollars on this library. My God. A library where I vacation in Maine is so much better than Greenwich’s bloated library. I don’t know how much they get a year, probably 1/2 a million.

    Too many staff people with scowls on over there.
    .

  • Vin DiMarco

    Thank you, Jodi Weisz, for bringing the issues of GL to the forefront, as you recently did regarding public education. Though I personally have not had the need or the spare time to set foot in the library more than a few times over the last thirty years (beyond an occasional event in the auditorium), I can’t be the only “townie” who is shocked by this, and the “simple solutions” you have recommended, both for the library and for the school district. If your facts and solutions are correct and your motivation sincere, I also can’t be the only townie who is welcoming your fresh perspective. While you’re at it, your thoughts on historic preservation, beach overcrowding, etc, etc…Thanks, Leslie, for providing the forum 🙂

    • greenwichfreepress

      I interviewed Stephanie Anderson at Darien Library on Thursday about how they LOAN out wi fi hot spots for a week at a time. She is the assistant director of public services. She said they have 2 hot spots and people borrow them when they go to a hotel where the wi fi is crazy expensive, or for example, she said a non-profit doing a holiday boutique fundraiser needed wifi in order to make their check-out work. She said as the program grows in popularity,they may have to have more than two hot spots. She said the cost is part of the library’s phone plan. I was thinking why couldn’t we have hot spots at Armstrong Court and Wilbur Peck? Also, food for thought, she said the Darien Library’s wifi is 24/7 and people can sit in their cars and use it when the library closes,or out in the courtyard. – Leslie

      • Judy Goss

        I’ve done that at Cos Cob Library . . . and am not alone. Yes, that was me out in the car staring at a glowing screen.

  • Jodi Weisz

    Dear Mr. DiMarco:

    Historic preservation is indeed, important, for New England towns…as our workplaces become more distributed, folks are going to seek out those towns that have a historical vibe; Newtown, Monroe, Wilton…Nichols area of Trumbull…because beauty, in the end, does win out over congestion, poorly planned non-walking non-human scale neighborhoods, and, even, Trader Joes. With the governors recent score of major Transportation Monies (and if it, indeed, translates into better traffic flow on 1-95 and the Merritt, again, with tele-commuting and work/life balance demands, Fairfield Counties Upper towns are going to be the next HOT spot in real estate, leaving lower Fairfield county somewhat gasping for air, especially if you take out the historical and communal charm.

    That’s why I commend Tesei and Siciliano for transforming Greenwich Commons and moving forward on Historical landmarking.

    People want to feel connected to their community and their community’s history.

    As to my thoughts on beach over-crowding, well, I will tell you that when I was a member of tons of moms groups, in Stamford and Greenwich, Nannies and Stamford-ites bragged about being able to easily get into the beach as well as many cool international friends who had passes somehow as renters in Greenwich that then moved to Stamford and the like.

    Now, I have not put my mind to the issue, but I could easily figure it out…I would perform a simple useage audit and would have to shadow the clerks at the entry-gate at the beach and do some competitive research on the matter to give you the report you deserve.

    I do know that I have said on more than one occasion while being at the beach with my kids, “Wow, I can’t believe I don’t know anybody here!”

    This is not the case when I attend the thousands of “jumpy-castle” family friendly events, touch a truck, and kids happenings all over town.

    And, these folks have kids at the beach, I am talking about!

    So, weird, yes. Something is amiss.

    Jodi Weisz

  • Bunny Stefano

    I think the United Way listened to Ms. Weisz. They are a good organization. It is sad the “public library” never took this seriously.

    There are many ways to give free internet access to people. My company in New Haven gives it to all of our employees and their families.

    The Greenwich Library should be funded like the Darien Library.

    The taxpayers are paying for too many bloated salaries.

    Volunteers raise most of the money at the Darien Library.

    Cut the Library’s budget and give this money to Kids in Crisis and the United Way.

  • Sarah Strong

    If the Greenwich Library wants to be more like a museum than a public library let them raise money from fundraisers and art shows and events put on by their trustees.

    2 – 3.5 million should be cut from the Greenwich Public Library and given to

    1) Kids in Crisis
    2) United Way of Greenwich
    3) an Endowed Fund (that Hedge Funds leaders, corporations and other leaders in the community) would create to establish an amazing preschool program for Title 1 kids and their siblings in a Central Greenwich location.

  • Eric S.

    Did the Library pony up, yet? What a disgrace to our Town’s reputation.

  • Ronnie McGee

    Why does it take so much money to run our public library?

  • Wallace Tierney

    The Library Director makes 200,000K and lives in Rye? Greenwich Public Library spends 9.2 million dollars and doesn’t help kids who can’t get on the Internet. How much do you want to bet they aren’t checking out books either. In five years she gets a million dollars from us? I am sure it is more, this doesn’t count her benefits.

  • Nicky T.

    Greenwich Public Library is a nice building but not forward thinking. I like Westport’s Library. Greenwich Library is dull.

  • Michele Reinard

    I agree that more money should go to the United Way. The Library’s layout lacks a connection to the community’s needs. I have been to libraries in Colorado and California that are so much more cutting-edge. This library seems stuck.

  • Molly P.

    I like the fact that you can hang out in the library but question if it should cost us 9.2 million dollars. Also, these are serious concerns, that the kids in Town who need the library the most are not the ones using the library and that the leadership there is very holed up in their offices.

    I go to a library in Maine in the summer. It is a five star library with a half a $500,000 budget that feels so much more alive than the Greenwich Public Library that spends almost 10 million.

  • Katy Sayed

    If the town wants to create a big building that serves as the Town’s living room with an Internet connection, that is cool. That has been accomplished really well. But, in terms of providing cutting edge library services, I don’t see the staff there doing much while I am there.

    The United Way created Community Answers not the Greenwich Public Library. They even have the volunteer Friends being the first to greet you. Why do they hire so many paid staff over there if they aren’t the least bit helpful?

    There is one lady, Laura who is good over there. That’s about it.

  • Dan Singh

    The Trustees of the Library give 6 million dollars for salaries…you’d think we would know these people. With the BOE we know who the Superintendent is; who the principals are; who the Board of Education people are. BIG SALARIES are being paid to the staff of the Greenwich Public Library and I asked (I know it is only a water cooler poll) 10 people I know if they know any of them over there and not one person did. I have lived here for 20 years.

    Only 54% of Greenwich residents have a library card, much less use it.

    In New Canaan 80% of residents have a card.

    I called both libraries and asked this question the New Canaan Library knew the answer the Greenwich librarian told me to go to the State Library and ask them.

    Why are we paying them 167,000K if they can’t answer this question in 20 minutes? The amount of time I spent holding on the phone.