Library Advocates Rally To Prevent City Cuts
Say Mayor’s Plan Would Shut Branches
City Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Vincent Gentile lead their City Council colleagues, directors of New York City’s public library systems and labor advocates at a rally last Wednesday, Apr. 6, to celebrate libraries and encourage the full funding of these systems in the city’s fiscal year 2012 budget.
More than 200 people gathered in City Hall Park in Manhattan to join Van Bramer and Gentile to celebrate and support public libraries. They were treated to performances by Lost in the Stacks (a band affiliated with the Brooklyn Public Library) and Dewey and the Decimals (the official band of the Queens Library).
“From toddlers to seniors—New Yorkers need libraries,” said Van Bramer, chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee. “Now more than ever libraries represent a lifeline to millions of New Yorkers—whether they are looking for a job, learning a new language or seeking help with homework after school. If we close libraries these services will no longer be available. We must fight to keep our libraries open.”
“The proposed cuts would devastate the most democratic public resource our city has,” said Gentile, chair of the Select Committee on Libraries. “No matter your age, income or gender, libraries’ doors are open to you. They see your potential, they help you discover it. That’s a service New Yorkers need now more than ever.”
Directors of New York City’s three library systems—the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Borough Public Library— joined the rally to encourage the public to get active in protecting their local library from budget cuts.
“Queens Library supports the education, job readiness and intellectual growth of New Yorkers of all ages,” said Tom Galante, chief executive officer of the Queens Library. “If public libraries are forced to cut service hours, many people have no alternative. We thank Council Members Gentile and Van Bramer, and the entire City Council for this show of unity in supporting free public library service in this city.”
“This year, as in years past, New York City libraries are facing significant budget cuts. Fortunately libraries have supportive friends in City Council, especially Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Members Vincent Gentile and Jimmy Van Bramer, who understand the importance of and stand with public libraries,” said Linda Johnson, interim executive director of the Brooklyn Public Library. “Now is the time for the public to stand up for its libraries. Every day the residents of Brooklyn rely on branch libraries as community spaces and educational havens that provide access to the resources that can help them change their lives. With support from our elected officials and from the public, Brooklyn Public Library is—and should continue to be—one of the most critical and cherished resources available to every member of our community.”
District Council 37 (DC 37), which represents employees in all three library systems, joined the rally with members to fight for the protection of jobs. The proposed funding cuts to libraries would cause approximately 1,500 jobs to be lost between the three library systems.
As part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Preliminary FY2012 Budget, library funding would revert to the lowest levels in more than a decade. Libraries would lose the $61.5 million in funding the Council successfully restored in 2010 negotiations as well as $19.7 million in additional cuts. At the same time, demand for library services is at an all-time high.
According to library systems, the total $81.2 million in funding cuts to libraries would require the permanent closure of 16 Brooklyn library branches; 14 Queens library branches; and 10 branches between Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx.