Left to right: New York Public Library President Tony Marx, Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, and Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott testified this morning before the New York City Council (photo credit: William Alatriste/New York City Council)
For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 18
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New York City’s Library Presidents Testify About Impacts Proposed $36.2M Budget Cuts Will Have on Service and Days of Operation
May 18, 2023 — The presidents of New York City’s three public library systems testified this morning before the New York City Council calling on the City to reverse a planned $36.2M in proposed budget cuts in the FY24 budget. Their testimony comes after a rally outside City Hall hosted by the Libraries Committee Chair Chi Ossé, and DC37, the union that represents library workers. Hundreds of supporters attended the rally.
The hearing and rally marks the first time the three presidents — Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott, and New York Public Library President Tony Marx — have spoken publicly about potential budget cut impacts since Mayor Adams partially restored some library funding in the FY24 Executive Budget. All three expressed gratitude to Mayor Adams, but said the remaining $36.2M in proposed cuts would impact libraries' ability to provide critical services and programs, and their ability to stay open for their regular hours and days.
Specifically, the presidents testified that, if the cuts were to go through, the systems would need to limit hiring for vacant positions, which would result in the elimination of all Sunday service and a five-day-a-week schedule for many branches that would replace the current six-day schedule every public library now enjoys.
Copies of their prepared remarks are available here.
Prior to the budget hearing, Library leadership, staff, allies and supporters of all ages from throughout the five boroughs, rallied with the public in front of City Hall to protest the cuts. The three presidents were joined by Council Member Chi Ossé (Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations), Henry Garrido, Executive Director of DC37, the union that represents the majority of Library workers, Lauren Comito, Executive Director, Urban Librarians Unite, as well as teen patrons who shared the profound educational and social support they received from libraries.
Those in attendance wore bright orange t-shirts that read “Libraries are for everyone!” Supporters also carried signs that read: “No cuts to Libraries.” A public campaign held both online and at branches has sparked an outpouring of public support, with nearly 100,000 New Yorkers sending letters to City Hall advocating for New York City’s libraries.
Library services have remained crucial to the city's recovery from the pandemic and have also adapted to further champion access to information, fostering community collaboration, and ensuring all New Yorkers have a welcoming and inclusive space. In the past year, the three Library systems have worked to expand Teen Centers and services for students, supported asylum-seekers navigating New York City, and made frequently banned titles available to all.
Brooklyn Public Library President Linda E. Johnson, Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott, and New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said: “New York City’s public libraries are trusted and safe community spaces that meet the diverse needs of New Yorkers, regardless of background, income, birthplace, or beliefs. From storytimes to senior services—and everything in between—libraries truly are for everyone. We thank Mayor Adams for restoring some of our funding. But our ability to continue this work is threatened by the proposed remaining budget cuts. If enacted, those cuts will end Sunday service at every branch across the city and eliminate universal six-day service. These are just a few of the difficult measures our systems will have to endure. Libraries are just 0.4% of the city budget, but their benefits are enormous.”
“Libraries are among New York’s most popular and utilized institutions, providing essential services to all New Yorkers. They need to be properly funded to continue this work. Like many New Yorkers, I grew up attending public libraries and know firsthand how these trusted institutions change and save lives. I stand with Brooklyn, Queens and the New York Public Libraries to demand fully funded systems in the FY24 City budget. Libraries are for everyone!” said Council Member Chi Ossé, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations.
"Our library branches are vital for connecting New York City residents to their history, to the outside world and to each other. Our communities can’t afford to lose these essential services at a time when access to information, free programming and educational resources is more important than ever. We call on City Hall and the City Council to restore this critical funding immediately," said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37.
“I don't understand a literate society not making libraries a priority. I’m addicted to St. Agnes Library on Amsterdam. I go there a lot to read the papers that I haven't caught up on. There are no seats available in the computer spaces. We need more librarians, not fewer. We need libraries to be open more hours, have more books, have more computers," said Council Member Gale A. Brewer.
“Public libraries are vital to the social and cultural life of our local communities, serving people of every ethnicity, age and economic class. We devote a small fraction of the city’s budget to funding our libraries, but the return on that investment is immeasurable. It is unthinkable to suggest they find a way to do the same with less by slashing their budgets. I pledge to support our city’s libraries to see that they get the funding they need to continue their vital work in our communities,” said Council Member Sandra Ung.
“The Mayor’s potential budget cuts to libraries are detrimental to our students, New Americans, seniors, and other vulnerable communities who rely on their services,” said Council Member Julie Won. “As an immigrant, I know firsthand that libraries are lifelines for our community. Budget cuts to libraries mean cuts to immigration resources, senior arts classes, and college readiness courses. We demand that the city fully restore cuts and baseline libraries by $36.2 million to prioritize the working people that keep New York moving.”
“Libraries are vital for our community; they are more than just a place to read books. Libraries help ensure that people can access the information they need regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, or geographic barriers,” said Council Member Francisco Moya. “So we are doing everything we can to make sure they receive the right funding.”
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