More than a dozen New York City Council members, the presidents of New York’s three library systems, and several hundred librarians, library staff, supporters, advocates, and children from nearby schools rallied today on the steps of city hall to protest $106 million in proposed funding cuts. Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Vincent J. Gentile also pledged to introduce legislation that would create a baseline of stable funding for the city’s public library services.
Bramer and Gentile—who both chair council committees on library services—were joined by Thomas Galante, president/CEO of Queens Library; Anthony Marx, president/CEO of the New York Public Library; and Linda Johnson, the president/CEO of Brooklyn Public Library; as well as representatives from advocacy group Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) and the DC37 municipal employees union.
The children in attendance spoke from a mini-podium, in the role of journalists, asking the council members questions about library funding, according to Joanne King, director of communications for the Queens Library in Jamaica, NY. Queens alone is facing a proposed cut of $29.6 million, which would force the closure of 36 libraries and the layoff more than 420 staff, King says, noting that citywide, more than a thousand library employees would lose their jobs.
“More importantly,” King says, “millions of New Yorkers would lose access to the valuable free services of their public libraries. More than 75 percent of New Yorkers use their public libraries; yet the libraries…account for less than on half of 1 percent of the city’s budget.”
Adds Galante, “Free public libraries are more critical to the fabric of our democratic society than ever before. We are a digital bridge, a community hub, a center of lifelong learning, and the place where new opportunities are realized every single day.”