NYC Libraries Lag Behind Other Major Cities
NYC Libraries Lag Behind Other Major Cities

NEW YORK—As the countdown toward finalizing the New York City budget gets closer to the end, the three presidents of the city’s library systems are pleading for a halt to proposed cuts.

The city’s preliminary public library budget cuts of over $106 million would “decimate” New York City’s libraries, according to Dr. Anthony Marx, President of the New York Public Library system, which includes Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

“It’s almost too horrifying an idea to contemplate,” said Marx.

Testifying at a City Council hearing on the morning of June 3, Marx was joined by Thomas Galante, President of the Queens Borough Public Library and Linda Johnson, President of Brooklyn Public Library. All three urged the sympathetic City Council members present to do everything in their power to keep the cuts from going through.

“We’re a place that everyone needs,” said Galante, adding there are already 43 libraries in Queens which are closed on the weekends. Proposed cuts would force the borough to completely close 36 libraries, which is more than half its branches.

Already lagging behind other major urban centers, the library presidents expressed fear the cuts would put New York City even further behind.

According to a study by Center for an Urban Future, a NYC-based think tank, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, and other cities already spend more per capita on libraries than New York City.

The study found that in 2011, even Detroit outdid New York by spending $61 per capita on libraries. Queens trailed behind with $46 per capita, and Brooklyn spent $40 per capita. The costs included all expenditures, including employee benefits and private expenditures, although in some cases maintenance and technology costs are covered by other agencies.

If the Bloomberg Administration manages to push the funding cuts through, the consequences on the ground for libraries in the five boroughs would be tremendous.

Potential closures at New York Public Libraries would be at 14 branches, Brooklyn, 16 branches, and Queens, 36 branches.

It would also cost a large number of jobs. Of the 646 proposed layoffs, 240 would be in Manhattan, 220 in the Bronx, 50 in Staten Island and 130 at research libraries.

  • Michael D. D. White

    The recent period of underfunding of libraries coincides with the implementation of library and city official plans to sell libraries and shrink the library system in order to hand the system’s real estate assets over to developers. The underfunding is cited as an excuse to explain why such sell-offs are theoretically “necessary” but things like the sale of Donnell Library (a five-story library with many newly renovated feature across from the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street in Manhattan) to net only $39 million shows that these deals are NOT for the public benefit. (The penthouse in the 5–story building replacing Donnell is on the market for $60 million, much more than the library was sold for.)

    Put a halt to the real estate deals (or even just make sure that they don’t keep cheating the public) and the reason for the recent deliberate underfunding would disappear. The shrinkage going on to sell real estate is astounding: Usually shrinking library space down to down to 1/3 or 1/4 of what it was before. The Central Library Plan in Manhattan involves taking 380,000 square feet of libary space and reducing it to 80,000 square feet- selling the Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL and ripping out the research stacks at the 42nd Street Central Reference Library, essentially decommissioning it as a proper refrence library.

    Citizens Defending Libraries has a campaign against this underfunding and a petition with well over 11,000 signatures (since February), most of them on line.- Go to Citizens Defending Libraries web pages for more information, links to tons of pertinent articles about the subject, and links to the petition.

  • Schmice

    Dumbing down of America

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