Testimony before the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, the Committee on Finance, and the Select Committee on Libraries on the City's Executive Expense and Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year 2008
May 14, 2007
Good afternoon. I am Tom Galante, Director of the Queens Library. I want to begin by thanking Speaker Quinn and the entire City Council for their continued support of public libraries. I’d also like to thank the members of our terrific Queens delegation for your unwavering support of the Queens Library.
I’d like to specifically recognize Speaker Quinn for her leadership by making the expansion of library service a top priority in the City Council’s budget plans announced a few weeks ago. We know that working together we will accomplish the Speaker’s stated goal that every public library will once again be open at least six days each week – moving from an average service schedule of 39 hours of service per week to 45 hours each week.
For Fiscal Year 2008, I ask Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, and the entire City Council to take the necessary step of reopening 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.
The City Council’s Plan to restore library service throughout New York is important to the people of the Queens. It would restore $11.3 million to Queens Library, providing for 222 jobs, so we could reopen forty (40) community libraries on Saturday and provide a 45 hour-per-week average service schedule. This funding would also restore reductions in City funding for book purchases that has declined by 54% ($3 million), programs, building maintenance, furniture, and equipment.
Presently, public libraries in Queens are open an average of 39 hours per week. The Council Plan extends library 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 City Council’s goal of $43 million is attainable. It compares to $41 million added by the City Council at budget adoption last year to avert a proposed reduction of $41 million that was baselined by the Mayor 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 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 an editorial in the Queens Chronicle 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, when you adopt the City’s Budget in June, 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 doing so, I also ask that the Mayor include this funding 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.