Tag Archives: New York State Education Department

Fort Ticonderoga Financial Crisis May Spread


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The Associated Press is reporting that the New York State Board of Regents, which oversees museums in the state, may change their policy to allow museums to sell their collections in order to pay back debt. The change is a result of Fort Ticonderoga’s recent financial troubles. Here is a clip from the story:

The state Board of Regents started working on an “emergency amendment” to the rules governing how museums can manage collections because it appeared that Fort Ticonderoga, a historic site and museum in northern New York, was on the verge of bankruptcy, said James Dawson, chairman of the board’s Cultural Education Committee… State rules currently require museums to use the money from such sales only to buy other works or enhance their collections.

The emergency amendment would allow museums to sell off works to pay down debt if they can show that they have no other way to raise the money and would otherwise go bankrupt. The museums also would only be allowed to sell the works to another museum or historical society in New York.

The Board was to have taken up the amendment at a meeting Monday but Dawson — who represents northern New York on the Board of Regents — said he withdrew the proposal Thursday, partly because Fort Ticonderoga was able to raise enough money to stay out of bankruptcy court.

The plan has come to light just two weeks after the National Academy in Manhattan (not subject to the Board of Regents) sold off two Hudson River School paintings. Other cultural institutions in the state are also facing financial hardships that have been reported here at the New York History blog, including local libraries and Amsterdam’s Elwood Museum. Last month Fort Ticonderoga laid-off four employees and closed an office building (BTW, the Smithsonian is also facing financial hardship and recently cut salaries).

It was announced in July that Fort Ticonderoga faced financial ruin after Deborah Mars, a Ticonderoga native married to the billionaire co-owner of the Mars candy company Forrest Mars Jr., bailed on their long-time support for the fort just before completion of the new $23 million Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. The Mars paid for nearly all of the new building’s construction but left before it was finished leaving Fort Ti about two million dollars in debt. When the building bearing their name opened, they didn’t show.

Other options that have been floated include applying for new short-term loans, a new capital campaign to raise $3 million to $5 million, asking the state for a bailout or to take over ownership of the fort, selling of some of the fort’s property or collections or closing for an indefinite period until the finances are sorted out.
Coincidentally, Ticonderoga was also considering selling a Hudson River School painting, Thomas Cole’s 1831 “Ruins of Fort Ticonderoga.”

According to the Associated Press:

Anne Ackerson, director of the Museum Association of New York, said her group was among those opposing the idea of allowing museums to sell their collections to pay debts. While it might be a short-term fix for some museums’ financial problems, it might dissuade others from seeking other solutions when money gets tight, she said.

The Board of Regents rules governing the sale of museum holdings were established in the early 1990s when the New York Historical Society faced financial problems.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Queens Democrat who chaired an investigative committee at the time, said he was happy to hear the Board of Regents had withdrawn the emergency amendment proposal but remained concerned that they might still try to tweak other parts of the rules that define what qualifies as part of a museum’s collection.

Brodsky said he urged the Regents to hold off on making any changes until after a more thorough review involving museums, the Legislature and others with an interest.

Bernard Margolis Appointed NY State Librarian


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The Board of Regents has announced the appointment of Bernard A. Margolis as the New York State Librarian. He will assume his new responsibilities in January 2009.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, “We live in an age of information, and libraries play a critical role in providing us with access to that information. They are vital to our economy and our communities. They promote literacy and lifelong learning. And in these trying economic times, they are vital to people seeking information about jobs. I am thrilled that the Regents have appointed a dynamic and innovative person like Mr. Margolis to serve in the critically important position of State Librarian.”

The New York State Library provides information and library services through its Research Library and the Division of Library Development. Mr. Margolis will have oversight responsibility for a $13.4 million operating budget, 180 employees, over 20 million collection items and nearly $100 million in State and federal aid to libraries.

One of the largest research libraries in North America, the New York State Research Library is the only state library which is a member of the Association of Research Libraries. The Library’s holdings include a significant manuscript and rare book collection, as well as holdings in a wide variety of formats, including paper, microform, digital and electronic records. It is also a Federal Depository and Patent Library; has the responsibility for the acquisition, distribution and maintenance of New York State documents; and is a regional library for the blind and visually impaired in New York’s 55 upstate counties.

The Division of Library Development provides leadership and technical assistance to New York’s 73 library systems through a comprehensive program of State aid for public, school, academic and special library services. Staff experts work with librarians, trustees, school administrators, public officials and local leaders to solve problems and find new ways of making library services and resources available to their community. Library Development administers more than $100 million in State and federal aid to New York’s libraries and helps them to take full advantage of federal and private funding programs like E-rate telecommunications discounts and Gates Library Foundation grants.

Mr. Margolis served as the President of Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston, Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2008. BPL is the oldest municipal public library in the country, with 27 neighborhood branches. The Library’s collections of over 34 million items include the library of President John Adams, Shakespeare’s first folio, Gutenberg’s Catholicon, and many other unique and rare materials. BPL is a member of the Association of Research Libraries.

Mr. Margolis’s achievements as BPL president include expansion of branch library hours; appointment of a children’s librarian in every branch; creation of a nationally recognized Homework Assistance Program and online tutoring program; implementation of Reading Readiness to prepare preschoolers for school success; creation of local history centers in eight branch libraries; creation of the award-winning Norman B. Leventhal Map Center; development of a collection conservation program; and growth of the BPL’s trust funds from $37 million to $55 million. Under Mr. Margolis’s leadership, BPL secured $7 million of direct grants and $18 million in federal funds for technology improvements and many foundation grants, designated gift funds, and major bequests.

Mr. Margolis led the effort to restore and renovate the historic central library building, securing funding from a number of sources. He worked with the City of Boston to establish a critical repair fund, allowing BPL to address building and equipment repairs in a timely manner. BPL collaborated with other cultural institutions and more than 4,500 different community groups and organizations.

Mr. Margolis holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Librarianship, both from the University of Denver. His library experience includes management and executive positions in libraries and library systems in Colorado and Michigan. Prior to moving to Boston, he served as Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs (from 1988 to 1997).

Mr. Margolis’s service includes a number of elected positions within the American Library Association, leadership in the Association of Research Libraries, service as a professional delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries, and service on the boards of library organizations in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Michigan. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Library Administration and Bottom Line: The Magazine of Library Financial Management. He has contributed to several books and has published articles in American Libraries, Pub­lic Libraries, and Library Journal.

State Ed Department Wants Your Opinion


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The New York State Education Department (NYSED), which includes the New York Sate Library, is redesigning its web site. As part of the process, NYSED is conducting a brief survey to learn more about how visitors use the web site. If you use the SED and/or the Library site, take a few minutes to complete their six-question survey and let them know what you like or dislike about the site, and how it could be more useful.