Borough Presidents Stringer, Markowitz, Diaz, NYC Writers and Library Users Slam Outrageous Cuts to Public Libraries
Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz today stood with representatives from the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public Library, New York Public Library, writers, librarians and other library staff, and library users to fight proposed cuts to the New York City library system, including 30 branch closures. In his proposed FY2012 Budget, the Mayor slashed funding for all three of New York’s library systems, with $25.3 million in cuts to the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL), $25.2 million in cuts for Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and $39.8 million in cuts to the New York Public Library system (NYPL) which includes Staten Island, Bronx and New York.
Flanked by author Malachy McCourt, Paul LeClerc, President of the New York Public Library, Linda E. Johnson, Interim Executive Director of the Brooklyn Public Library, Thomas W. Galante, CEO, Queens Public Library Henry Garrido, Associate Director of DC 37 and librarians representing all three library systems, Stringer called on the City to restore $90.3 million in proposed cuts. He noted that libraries offer gateways to new worlds for millions of New Yorkers, beyond books and periodicals: They provide career-counseling resources and internet access for many who cannot count on such luxuries. They also generate and provide jobs at a time when City unemployment is hovering at 9%. The proposed reductions would eliminate 14,200 career-counseling slots at NYPL alone and the jobs of some 1,500 library staff.
“It’s time to shut the book on these cutbacks once and for all,” Stringer said. “Libraries challenge and mold our imaginations, and we cannot decimate them in the name of false economy. They symbolize our commitment to the idea that any New Yorker who wants to better him or herself should be able to do so free of charge. The Mayor’s proposed cuts would roll back library services to levels not seen since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.”
In the New York Public Library, the proposed cuts would shutter 12 branches and reduce hours at some branches from 6-7 days a week to only four days. At the Brooklyn Public Library, 16 branches would close and an estimated 10,000 events for children would be eliminated. At the Queens Borough Public Library, 48 branches would be closed four or five days a week; there would be no libraries open on Sundays at all, and only the Central Library would be open on Saturdays.
A recent national poll found 67% of users view libraries as important in finding a job, the Borough President noted. Similarly, a Gates Foundation survey revealed 77 million Americans used public library computer services last year to find jobs, apply for college, learn about government services, research medical treatments and connect with peers. Meanwhile, in a recent survey of BPL patrons, over 33 percent stated that they use the public library to access the Internet because they cannot access it anywhere else, citing inability to afford computer hardware and internet services. For BPL, the cuts would mean 800,000 fewer computer sessions, for NYPL 1.9 million fewer, and for QPL 1.5 million fewer. The deepening recession has sparked increased internet usage: In FY2010, BPL patrons signed up for and used more than 2.75 million computer sessions, a 22 percent increase from FY2009.
“How can we talk responsibly about promoting education and jobs at the very moment we’re forcing city libraries to shutter their doors?” Borough President Stringer concluded. “These cuts will prevent children from exploring new worlds, and block adults from pursuing continued education and literacy programs. As social reformer Henry Ward Beecher once observed: “A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.”
“We all know that times are tough and that we all need to make hard choices regarding the city’s budget but libraries are too valuable and serve the needs of too many people to bear the brunt of budget cuts,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Libraries are not merely for checking out books they provide computers for those who cannot afford their own, they provide a quiet place for children to study, they offer classes and workshops and the branches are frequently used by Brooklyn’s senior community. Cutting over $90 million from the NYPL and $25 million in Brooklyn alone: fuhgeddaboudit.”
“Our libraries provide critical services to all of our communities—from our youngest students to our senior citizens, to our families and everyone in between. We need to protect our libraries from these potentially devastating cuts, protecting both the crucial services they provide as well as the learning environments they offer our youth. Mayor Bloomberg must rethink these cuts,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“Like millions of the New York children of immigrants, public libraries gave me my life,” said journalist and author Pete Hamill. “We were poor in those days, but never impoverished. We too sailed to Treasure Island with Jim Hawkins. We too moved in the company of the Count of Monte Cristo. We could not afford to buy books, but in the library, they were free. Seven days a week. And they showed us the world beyond tenements. They gave us history, and science, and the glories of art. They helped us understand people who were not like us. They gave each of us our American future. To close libraries, or to reduce their hours, is to cast a vote against the future. The New York future. The American future. That would be more than simply foolish. It would be obscene.”
“Cutting library funds is an unnecessary amputation,” said author Malachy McCourt. “Having been a poverty stricken kid, what the library meant to us was that it was a place of knowledge, of magic and of stimulation of the intellect for the minds of children and adults.”
“Libraries are such a critical resource for all Brooklynites and in a year when we’ve seen more people use our services, this years potential budget cut will represent a lost opportunity for actual Brooklyn students, job-seekers, senior citizens, immigrants or young families to access information and knowledge,” said Linda E. Johnson, Interim Executive Director of the Brooklyn Public Library. “We hope that the Mayor and the City Council can find a way to offset these cuts and allow us to continue serving all our communities.”
"The proposed $40 million city budget cut, when added to the 10 percent reduction we've already taken, adds up to a 40 percent reduction in city support for public libraries,” said New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc. “This is four times the cut imposed in the fiscal crisis of 1975-76, when the city was bankrupt. It would force The New York Public Library to cut back to just four days of service a week, consider closing up to 12 locations, slash its book-buying budget and eliminate countless programs and classes. We have been cut each of the last three years and have lost over 400 positions, but have worked hard to do more with less and sustain a high quality of service. But there is only so much that can be done without seriously hurting our ability to serve New Yorkers, who are using our libraries more than ever.”
“A budget reduction of this magnitude would mean reducing library service to the lowest levels ever. People in Queens would have less library service in FY 12 than in the disastrous fiscal crises in the 1970s, the 1990s, even the Great Depression. It would mean the layoff of 471 library professionals who are the heart of our workforce and often the heart of the community libraries in which they deliver services every single day. We cannot let this happen,” said Thomas W. Galante, CEO, QueensLibrary
“Yesterday, June 16, over 250,000 postcards and petitions signed by New York City residents were delivered to the City Council and the Mayor urging them to save our public libraries,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “But, right now the Mayor seems more determined to cut funds for this and other vital services and layoff the workers who provide them, than ask high-priced consultants to cut their profits even a little. The Mayor’s proposed budget will cause hard-working DC 37 members to lose their jobs; libraries to close; and New York City's residents to suffer. This must not happen.”