QPL President & CEO Dennis M. Walcott at City Hall, 5.21.19

Libraries Requesting $35 Million to Keep Up with Growing Demand and Pay for Rising Costs; Rally with Elected Leaders & Advocates on the Steps of City Hall, Part of Their Ongoing “#Invest in Libraries” Campaign

New York, NY – Facing possible cuts in the city budget, leadership from the city’s three library systems, elected officials and advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall today to warn of a dramatic impact should funding to the library systems be reduced—including loss of weekend service, smaller collections, reduced programming and delayed revitalization projects.

The lack of inclusion of the city’s libraries in City Hall’s ten-year capital plan is also likely to compound the problem. The three library systems are asking for $150 million to compensate, and to help with ongoing maintenance of branches across the city that are in need of new roofs, boilers, air conditioners and more.

"Libraries are doing more than ever before for the people of New York City, including partnering with the City to support its goals and priorities," said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. "To be able to continue this important work while also extending our resources to address the City's growing needs—including reaching hard-to-count communities in the high-stakes 2020 Census—libraries need increased funding, not less. Under the current proposed budget, we will have to drastically cut back hours and days of service, with weekends most at risk. We understand this is a tough budget year—but in tough times, New Yorkers rely on their libraries. We are so grateful to City leaders for recognizing the importance of libraries and relying on us to help provide critical services, and hope that they will continue to invest in libraries."

“There may be no institution in our City serving more people with as wide a variety of services as the Library. Last year, in Brooklyn alone, we provided over 70,000 free programs attended by over 1,000,000 people, including educational and cultural programs, business and career development assistance, services designed to aide immigrants and, of course, literacy services to give children a good and fair start at school and engender a lifelong love of reading, and adult literacy classes to alter the course of the lives of those who are learning to read later in life,” said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “I urge city leaders to continue their critical investment in Libraries and the millions of people we serve each year.”

“Libraries are the great equalizers in our society, and the most-equipped vehicle to a fairer and stronger City,” said Queens Public Library President & CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We need increased funding, not less. We need additional dollars to maintain our current level of service, meet rising costs, repair and upgrade our aging buildings and provide the collections and programs our customers deserve and expect. Cutting the budgets of libraries will undermine our commitment to opportunity for all New Yorkers.”

“Our public libraries are lifelines for NYC neighborhoods—and cutting them by $11 million would jeopardize hours and days of service. We urge City Hall to find a way to keep what amounts to less than half of 1 percent of the city’s budget,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37.

Libraries across the city are doing more than ever before, from traditional services like storytime to key civic initiatives including support for new Americans. Of particular concern is the 2020 Census; libraries expect to play a central role in helping New Yorkers with the Census, but fear that they will not be provided additional financial support from the city to do this crucial civic work that will help determine federal funding to New York City for the next ten years.

Results of a new online poll of more than 1,000 New Yorkers, conducted by firm Change Research, highlighted the personal connections that New Yorkers have with their libraries, and the overwhelming support behind the full funding of library programming and services.

New Yorkers feel public libraries are irreplaceable cornerstones of New York City, especially for the city’s most vulnerable. Key takeaways include:

  • 93 percent feel libraries are important to New York City;
  • 95 percent agree that libraries further many important initiatives for New York City;
  • 93 percent agree that libraries are a cornerstone of all New York communities;
  • 84 percent agree libraries should receive an increase in funding;
  • 97 percent feel that libraries most benefit populations like children, immigrants, and disadvantaged & lower income people;
  • 95 percent said that their community would be negatively impacted without the library.

“Our city’s public library systems need more funding to keep up with rising costs and demands,” said City Council Member and Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, Jimmy Van Bramer. “It is undemocratic to propose cuts for libraries at a time of such great need. I will continue to fight any attempt to diminish library services in our communities.”

About the Campaign

The #InvestInLibraries 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.