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Officials: “Without operating increase libraries face tough choices ahead”

Call for Critical Investments in FY19— A $16 Million Increase in Expense Funding; Allocate $60 Million in Capital Funding

Video “Libraries Are For Everyone” shown before the hearing

New York, NY – DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, library presidents, library workers, advocates and elected officials gathered at City Hall on Friday to urge the Mayor and City Council to invest in city libraries. Without an increase, libraries will be unable to sustain current levels of service. Tough choices will have to be made around collections, hours and maintenance upgrades.

Libraries are facing increased operating costs and an ongoing maintenance crisis that requires new funding to continue the programs and services New Yorkers depend on. The campaign is calling for an additional $16 million in expense funding to more adequately fund six-day service and programs and $60 million in capital funding for urgent facility maintenance.

Immediately following the press conference, the campaign testified at the City Council budget hearing and delivered 50,000 letters to City Hall from New Yorkers across all five boroughs.

Please view the brief video “Libraries Are For Everyone,” shown before the hearing.

“Our public libraries are the jewels of our neighborhoods. They receive more than 40 million visits each year and need to be properly funded to serve our communities, and to do so six days a week. In addition, too many libraries are in disrepair, and need maintenance work urgently. We call on the Mayor and City Council to do the right thing and add $16 million to their operating budgets and $60 million in capital funding,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.

“New Yorkers need their public libraries more than ever, something that our partners in government have seen and supported over the last few years. While we and our patrons are so grateful for the city's recent investment in libraries, the fact is that rising costs will make it difficult for us to maintain our current levels of service. Without increased funding this coming fiscal year, tough choices will need to be made, and our communities will feel the impact. We do hope the city's leaders will consider this request, allowing us to maintain longer hours, expanded education programs, robust collections, and more,” said Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library.

“The doors of Brooklyn Public Library are open to everyone,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “Our services and programs engage families, job seekers, older adults, veterans, homeless, immigrants, teens, and entrepreneurs, strengthening the very fabric of our communities. Without an increase in operating dollars this year, we will be faced with extremely difficult choices.”

“Public libraries are the lynchpins of an open and democratic society, and provide opportunities for growth and empowerment to all at no cost,” said Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We recognize there will always be difficult budgetary decisions to make, as there is a finite number of dollars to allocate. However, we are courting an impending crisis. While we will continue to operate at maximum efficiency, the reality is that rising costs and rising demands will eventually push us to the point where hard decisions will have to be made that will noticeably affect the public.”

“Before serving as a Council Member, I proudly worked for the Queens Library for over 11 years, so I’ve seen first-hand how important our libraries are to the people of our city,” said Council Member and Chair of Libraries and Cultural Affairs Jimmy Van Bramer. “Libraries are truly our most democratic institutions and represent a place where all can come to find a sense of community, feel welcome and valued for who they are, and empowered to improve themselves and their neighborhoods. Last year, we secured an increase of $110 million in capital funding, but we need more. I’m proud of the work we’ve done together, and I stand with our libraries today in calling for $16 million in expense funding to adequately fund six-day service and $60 million in capital funding to repair and improve facilities. Maintaining and increasing essential services for all New Yorkers is imperative.”

“The reality is that the proposed funding level in the executive budget is inadequate. Without an increase in city funding this year our libraries won’t be able to maintain the standard of service we've provided this past year. New Yorkers deserve more--funding for services has remained stagnant for the past 3 years,” said Ricci Yuhico, Urban Libraries Unite Board Member and Advocacy Chair.

“Funding libraries is an investment in New York City’s success. Especially in immigrant, working communities like Sunset Park and Red Hook, Brooklyn, libraries function as irreplaceable community, cultural, and learning centers. I call for the Fiscal 2019 City budget to include more operating and capital funding so vital library services remain available to all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“Public libraries provide an invaluable service to the educational and cultural well-being of our communities”, said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “Investing in increased operating and capital funding ensures that librarians can continue to prioritize the delivery of high quality and invaluable services to City-wide residents.”

“Libraries need more funding to provide services and resources to the communities they serve. Parents and school children rely on Brooklyn Public Library for books, computers and places to study. We must fund and support our public libraries,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel.

“Our libraries tie our communities together at a time pressures at the local and national level threaten to pull us apart,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We need our libraries now more than ever. We can’t risk to underfund these vital neighborhood resources. I'm calling on the Mayor and my Council colleagues to maintain investment in our libraries, and in doing so, preserve our futures.”

New York’s public libraries are an essential resource for New Yorkers of all backgrounds, fostering education and civic engagement in a safe environment where everyone is treated with respect.

Across the city’s library branches on any given day, children and teens get afterschool tutoring, immigrants attend ESOL and citizenship classes, job seekers learn new skills at resume workshops, and more. In the last year alone, libraries have partnered with the City to distribute early literacy kits in eight different languages to thousands of families, expand video-visitation for those with incarcerated loved ones, launch STEM programs for teens, provide workforce development to patrons, and connect families facing immigration status uncertainty to free legal services and trusted information.

The City’s investments in public libraries over the past few years have paid off. Neighborhood branches expanded their services with more librarians and technology specialists, while many branches are now open longer so that working people can visit on weekends and in the evenings. Last year, there were nearly 37 million visits made to New York City libraries.

The role libraries play in bringing communities together and making the city stronger is more important than ever. The cost to maintain six-day service has risen substantially, and without additional funding to maintain it, it will be harder for libraries to stretch their resources to provide the vital programs for the city’s most vulnerable patrons and communities.