Officials with New York’s three library systems have launched a campaign to boost funding in next year’s city budget. They say cuts in service could be inevitable if the mayor and City Council can’t find $16 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
In 2016, Mayor de Blasio provided the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library with a larger operating budget than in past years ($344 million), and allocated funds for capital improvement projects. The budget this year is not being reduced, but it also hasn’t been increased to keep up with rising costs.
The library systems anticipate a shortfall due to the increased minimum wage and paid family leave, among other factors. According to a press release, “…we are hoping to get a little help spreading the word to New Yorkers that without a relatively small increase to our expense budgets, libraries will have serious trouble maintaining current service levels and may need to make tough choices around hours, collections, and other resources.”
Representatives from the library systems are urging anyone concerned about service cuts to visit investinlibraries.org. They’ve made it easy to send a letter to the mayor and key members of the City Council, including your own local representative. The site also includes a collection of “sticky notes” from library users. Here are a few samples from Lower East Side branch libraries:
- “The library enables me to feed my young daughter’s appetite for a wide variety of books that I would otherwise not be able to afford.”—Tamera, Seward Park Library
- “When I was at my lowest, I could always count on the library where I could indulge in my writing and reading. Libraries are not an add on, they are an absolute essential for free societies.” —Edward-Yemil, Seward Park Library
- “My library, Hamilton Fish, Lower East Side, is a lifeline to the neighborhood. The librarians here go above and beyond providing after school resources to the many students in the area.” —Maureen, Hamilton Fish Park Library.
- “Seward Park Library is my home away from home. Priceless.” —Dalia, Seward Park Library
The mayor and Council must agree on a budget by the end of June. A spokesperson in the mayor’s office noted that the library’s budget has been increased by 24% over a five-year period. The mayor has also provided $485 million in capital funding for libraries. The city’s libraries are run as separate non-profit organizations. In addition to city funding, they rely on private donations and federal and state funding.
Branches on the Lower East Side include the Seward Park Library, Chatham Square Library, Hamilton Fish Park Library and Tompkins Square Library.