Invest In Libraries

New poll states New Yorkers say libraries make a significant positive impact, are key to supporting progressive city initiatives, and need increased support, even as City budget cuts loom

Change Research poll shows 95% of New Yorkers say a loss of library service would impact their communities, particularly children, seniors, immigrants, and low-income families; more than half of library users said a decline in service would limit their access to books and internet

APRIL 8, 2019 – A new poll reveals that New Yorkers believe public libraries are relevant, valuable cornerstones of New York City, making positive impacts on many communities, including and especially the most vulnerable: and that a decline in library service would have real impacts.

Results of the representative online poll of over 1,000 New Yorkers conducted between March 26 and March 31 by firm Change Research come as the city’s three public library systems are fighting for necessary increases in City operating and capital funding to cope with rising costs, growing footprints, increased demands, and aging buildings.

The three library systems are asking the City for $35 million in additional expense funding in Fiscal Year 2020 and $963 million over 10 years in the 10-Year Capital Plan for full renovations, technology upgrades, and critical maintenance.

At the moment, however, libraries are instead facing an up to $16 million cut in operating funding: an $8 million cut to their Fiscal Year 2020 budgets, as well as the potential loss of $8 million in one-year City Council funding.

Any cut will likely result in a decline in hours (particularly on weekends), service, and hiring at Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library.

According to the poll results, this would be a serious loss for the people of New York City. Without libraries:

  • 95% believe their communities and New York City would be impacted
  • 65% of library users would have limited access to books and the internet
  • 73% of respondents say children and teens in their community would have few or no alternative free out-of-school programs.

Additionally, a loss of hours could impact how many people use libraries and take advantage of their free programs, classes, materials, and more: 83% of those surveyed said they would be inclined to use libraries more or at all if they offered more evening and weekend hours.

New Yorkers can visit to sign online letters supporting restored and needed increased funding for libraries.

Other key results of the poll include:

  • 95% agree that libraries further many important initiatives for New York City
  • 93% agree that libraries are a cornerstone of all New York City communities
  • 93% feel libraries are important to New York City
  • 94% agree that public libraries are valuable
  • 84% believe libraries should receive an increase in funding
  • 62% believe public libraries even the playing field for New Yorkers
  • 63% believe public libraries supplement public schools’ early education efforts
  • 98% believe libraries benefit children
  • 98% believe libraries benefit students and researchers
  • 99% believe libraries benefit disadvantaged and lower-income people
  • 98% believe libraries benefit senior citizens
  • 97% believe libraries benefit working families
  • 97% believe libraries benefit immigrants

“This poll reinforces what we already know to be true, that our public libraries are indispensable to our communities,” said New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations Committee. “That is why we must fight to increase funding for our public libraries and not accept any cuts that would scale back the essential services they provide. Libraries should never be on the chopping block.”

These results reinforce what the presidents of Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library presented at a preliminary budget hearing at City Hall on March 11: that New York City’s 217 public libraries uniquely provide all New Yorkers in all communities with equal access to education, information, and opportunity, offering not just books, internet, and other materials, but also free programs and classes addressing early literacy, digital equity, homeless outreach, immigrant services, and much more.

The three library systems have expanded services as well as their physical footprints to meet the growing needs of New Yorkers. They are also being asked to do more to support the important priorities of the City: libraries have played an increasingly significant role in early literacy efforts, support to immigrants, workforce development, and closing the digital divide.

Additionally, libraries continue to be the most active IDNYC sign up centers, and have been identified as key partners in the City’s efforts to reach all New Yorkers during the Census in 2020. The survey shows that approximately 80% percent of respondents find libraries welcoming, and 91% of respondents find staff members trustworthy. Hence, libraries will be strong partners in efforts to reach “hard-to-count” communities.

All of this work, in the face of rising costs, means that without restored and increased funding, libraries will not be able to maintain service, let alone meet additional needs. To receive the same expense funding as last year would essentially be a cut.

“I have spent a lot of time talking to a lot of New Yorkers about libraries over the years,” said Christian Zabriskie, executive director of advocacy group Urban Librarians Unite. “Even people who don't use the library themselves get upset when they think about their neighbors not being able to access a warm welcoming library. ‘Where will the kids go? Where will the seniors go?’ These are the questions they ask, not where the funding will come from. As this poll shows, we are a huge city of small villages, and our people know that the library is the welcoming hearth of their own small communities.”

Change Research conducted an online poll March 26-31, 2019 in New York City. Using its Bias Correct Engine to attain a sample reflective of the population, Change Research polled 1034 residents of New York City. Post-stratification was performed on age, gender, and ethnicity. The margin of error for this survey, as traditionally calculated at a 95% confidence interval, is ± 3.0%.

The Invest in Libraries campaign is a partnership between the city’s three public library systems—Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library—and other library supporters across the city. Since the campaign launched in 2015, the City has allocated additional funding for programming as well as critical capital dollars to help address the over $1 billion in need facing the city’s aging library infrastructure. Despite this important support, libraries confront rising costs and increased demand for more services and programs (from New Yorkers and the City). The campaign urges the City to restore and increase funding to meet rising needs, demands, and costs.