As budget cuts loom, majority of New Yorkers want more funding for libraries: poll

The Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library
File photo

The city’s public library systems, which currently make up less than half of 1 percent of the city budget, are facing up to $16 million in budget cuts, even as they ask for required additional funding to cope with rising costs, increased demands, and aging buildings.

The potential cuts loom as a new poll shows 95 percent of New Yorkers say a loss of library service would impact their communities, particularly children, seniors, immigrants and low-income families and more than half of library users said a decline in service would limit their access to books and the internet.

Results of the online poll of 1,000 city residents conducted between March 26 and March 13 by Change Research show that 93 percent of those surveyed said libraries are cornerstones in their communities, while 84 percent say libraries deserve more funding, not less, but that may happen as the three library systems face a $16 million decrease in funding under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed $92.2 billion budget.

Any cuts would likely result in a decline in hours, particularly on weekends, less service and less hiring, according to Invest in Libraries, a campaign launched in 2015 in partnership with Queens Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and The New York Public Library and advocates across the five boroughs.

“The poll reinforces what we already know to be true, that our public libraries are indispensable to our communities,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations Committee. “That is why we must fight to increase funding for our public libraries and not accept any cuts that would scale back the essential services they provide. Libraries should never be on the chopping block.”

Especially at a time when the city is relying on libraries to do more to support its own priorities including an increasingly significant role in early literacy efforts, support to immigrants, workforce development and closing the digital divide.

Additionally, libraries continue to be the most active IDNYC sign-up centers, and have been identified as key partners in the city’s efforts to reach all residents during the 2020 Census.

The survey shows 80 percent of respondents find libraries welcoming, and 91 percent of respondents find staff members trustworthy making libraries string partners in efforts to reach “hard to count” communities.

“I have spent a lot of time talking to a lot of New Yorkers about libraries over the years. Even people who don’t use the library themselves get upset when they think about their neighbors not being able to access a warm, welcoming library,” said Urban Libraries Unite Executive Director Christian Zabriskie. “Where will the kids go? Where will the seniors go? These are the questions they ask, not where the funding will come from. As the poll shows, we are a huge city of small villages, and our people know that the library is a welcoming hearth of their own small communities.”