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Several weeks ago, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra announced that the 2005 budget allotment for the Buffalo and Erie County public library system could be slashed by as much as 80 percent in order to keep up with rising Medicaid costs. Such a drastic cut would devastate the community by forcing all 52 branches in Erie County to close.

Almost immediately after receiving the harrowing news, the libraries began an advocacy campaign in hopes that the government officials in question will find an alternative way of paying for Medicaid. The library's director has distributed pamphlets to all branches detailing how vital libraries are to the community. He is asking all patrons to state how the library system has made a difference in their lives.

Personally, as a 14-year-old living in Buffalo, I was aghast when I heard the county could even consider slashing library funding.

This country supposedly has the "No Child Left Behind" act. What good is such a proclamation if children are denied the resources that libraries provide? Being a high school student, I know I depend heavily on my local branch in order to succeed in my studies, and I have a computer at home with Internet access. I can't imagine how hard losing the libraries would be on children who do not have such blessings.

I patronize the Riverside branch so frequently that I am practically on a first-name basis with many of the employees. Some of my fondest childhood memories stem from Saturday mornings spent at the Riverside branch's preschool story time with Ms. Judy Rivard.

If the county truly doesn't realize how vital the library system is to this community's youth, simply speak to Donna Locker. She has headed an amazing summer reading program for the past six years called Battle of the Books. This past summer more than 300 young students chose to spend a good portion of their summer vacation reading and studying six book titles to culminate in a trivia competition held at the beginning of August.

As you can see, libraries are a refuge for many people and Buffalo especially cannot afford to lose such valuable assets considering the state of its public schools.

For information on how you can contribute to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library's advocacy campaign, contact your local library.