At the end of the annual “budget dance” between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council, the city’s library systems, including Queens Public Library, and their customers were among the biggest winners in town.
City Hall’s original budget called for $16 million in funding cuts which would have meant reduced operating hours, a possible elimination of Sunday service, a hiring freeze and fewer programs for adult literacy, story time for children and other projects.
Instead, City Council battled the administration during the drawn out negotiations and came away with a $33 million investment in additional expense funding for the city’s libraries.
“It was a total team effort, from Speakers Corey Johnson to our Queens delegation, especially Cultural Affairs & Libraries Chair Jimmy Van Bramer, Finance Chair Danny Dromm and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz who continues to fight for our libraries,” Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said. “People understand the value of libraries and the City Council made it a priority need and they really came through for us.”
Queens Public Library, which consists of 65 locations including branch libraries, the Central Library in Jamaica, seven adult learning centers around the borough, a technology lab in the Queensbridge Houses, two universal pre-kindergarten centers and two teen centers will remain operating at full strength.
“It’s the perfect marriage between the Queens delegation and our libraries,” Walcott said. “They continue to provide the level of support so we can continue to deliver a high level of service to the public and our customers.”
Van Bramer called the $33 million in increased funding a great victory for all New Yorkers.
“The budget agreement is historic in terms of not only the increase and overall level of funding, but also we got most of it baselined — made permanent — so libraries don’t risk losing it each year. Our communities rely on their local libraries and this will ensure that public libraries can remain open, expand services and keep up with rising demand.”
The leaders of the three systems, Queens Public Library, The New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library applauded the City Council.
“You have collectively ensured that public libraries — which offer opportunity to all and are the heart of a fair and equitable city — remain strong at a critical time in our history, when New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable, need them the most,” they said in a joint statement.
Dromm said he was proud to have helped secure the $33 million in additional expense funding.
“They are the backbone of our neighborhoods,” Dromm said. “Our libraries are community centers for young people and seniors alike, offering literature, computer access, free classes and concerts to everyone. This additional funding will help city libraries continue to serve New Yorkers for years to come.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said his team’s work paid off.
“We are investing over $30 million to support the library systems, which is a great investment in our future,” he said. “Everyone wins with a strong library system.”