Facing possible cuts in the city budget, leadership from Queens Public Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library joined elected officials on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to warn of a dramatic impact should funding to the library systems be reduced, including loss of weekend service, smaller collections, reduced programming and delayed revitalization projects. The lack of inclusion of the city’s libraries in City Hall’s 10-year capital plan is also likely to compound the problem.
The three library systems are asking for $150 million to compensate, and to help with ongoing maintenance of branches across the city that are in need of new roofs, boilers, air conditioners and other upgrades.
“Libraries are the great equalizers in our society, and the most-equipped vehicle to a fairer and stronger city,” Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said. “We need increased funding, not less. We need additional dollars to maintain our current level of service, meet rising costs, repair and upgrade our aging buildings and provide the collections and programs our customers deserve and expect. Cutting the budgets of libraries will undermine our commitment to opportunity for all New Yorkers.”
Libraries across the city are doing more than ever before, from traditional services like storytime to key civic initiatives including support for new Americans. Of particular concern is the 2020 Census; libraries expect to play a central role in helping New Yorkers with the Census, but fear that they will not be provided additional financial support from the city to do this crucial civic work that will help determine federal funding to New York City for the next 10 years.
“When it comes to libraries, this proposed budget is a disgrace,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “You cannot be the fairest big city in the country and tell all these people we are cutting programs and services that are meant to lift you up.”
Following the rally Van Bramer’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee held hearings on the proposed budget and the adverse effect it would have on library branches in Queens and the rest of the five boroughs.
“Our city’s public library systems need more funding to keep up with rising costs and demands,” Van Bramer said. “It is undemocratic to propose cuts for libraries at a time of such great need. I will continue to fight any attempt to diminish library services in our communities.”
Results of a recent poll of 1,000 New Yorkers, conducted by Change Research, found that 93 percent agree that libraries are a cornerstone of New York communities and 97 percent feel that libraries most benefit populations like children, immigrants, disadvantaged and lower income people. The survey also found that 95 percent said that their community would be negatively impacted without the library.
“There may be no institution in our city serving more people with as wide a variety of services as the library,” Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson said. “Without additional funding, we’ll still handle all the people that will come to us but we won’t do it adequately and it will not go the way the city would want it to go.”