Testimony before the City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations jointly with the Select Committee on Libraries on the City's Preliminary Expense and Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year 2008
City Hall March 15, 2007
Good afternoon. I am Tom Galante, Director of the Queens Library. I want to begin by thanking Speaker Quinn, chairmen Recchia and Gentile, and the entire City Council for their continued support of public libraries.
I also want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for agreeing to end the annual budget dance. That dance, as you are all well aware, involved the Mayor proposing large reductions in public library funding in his budget, $40.7 million last year, which was restored through negotiation by the City Council at budget adoption. Last year, Speaker Quinn told us that ending the budget dance was a priority in her first year as Speaker, and because of her dedication and commitment to this important goal, as well as the Mayor’s agreement, the dance has ended. I want to thank the Mayor, the Speaker, and the entire City Council for taking this important first step.
For Fiscal Year 2008, I ask Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, and the entire City Council to take the next step – reopen the doors of public libraries in every community on Saturdays. For many working families, Saturday is the only opportunity to visit public libraries. Every public library would be closed no more than one day each week – service levels not seen since the former Mayor and Speaker Vallone established a policy of six-day-a-week library service in every community that lasted nearly a decade, until 2002.
Public libraries that are open at least one day each weekend in every community requires the restoration of library funding cuts from 2002. The funding reduction caused a large decrease in our workforce. For the past five years, public libraries in two-thirds of Queens’ neighborhoods are closed all weekend long.
$11.3 million ($40.5 million Citywide) would restore service to all libraries in Queens six days per week and bring us to a 45 hour-per-week schedule. We would be able to add 222 jobs in Queens. This funding would also restore reductions in book purchases, funding for programs, building maintenance, furniture, and equipment.
Presently, public libraries in Queens are open an average of 39 hours per week. We would extend hours to a 45 hour average each week to bring public libraries in New York City closer to the national average of 47 hours of service per week. New York City, the greatest City in the world, should not fall so far below a national norm in its commitment to free and open access to public libraries – so that those who want to improve themselves can do so.
The Citywide funding request for public libraries of $40.5 million is attainable. It compares to $40.7 million added by the City Council at budget adoption last year to avert a proposed reduction of $40.7 million that was baselined in the City’s Financial Plan. This year, with the City of New York’s multi-billion dollar surplus, six-day service should be restored once and for all. If not now, then when?
New Yorkers care about their public libraries. At the last Queens Borough Board meeting in February, reopening the doors at every public library was a top priority for more community boards than for any other public service. To quote a recent editorial in the Queens Chronicle (attached) which called for additional funding for libraries, “this fight isn’t just about money; it’s about people and their future”.
I ask you, on behalf of nearly one million Queens Library cardholders, bring New York City closer to the national average – open public library doors on Saturday in every community – to reach an average of 45 hours per week in FY’08. In doing so, I also ask that this needed funding is included in the City’s Financial Plan beyond FY’08, to keep with the Mayor’s and Speaker’s commitment that the budget dance has ended once and for all.
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