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.