Kids from across the city woke up early on Tuesday, May 28, in an attempt to give city politicians a wake-up call about the importance of public libraries to New Yorkers.
They surrounded their neighborhood libraries, armed with posters and, more importantly, more arms — arms and hands, linked together in giant circles around the library buildings.
Hug The Libraries! was a way for libraries’ youngest patrons to emphasize the need to “stop the cuts” and “keep libraries strong,” the kids chanted at libraries throughout the five boroughs, including Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Bushwick branches.
“Libraries have always been a quiet place to read or work, or to [come] for stories and the magic of books,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, who joined the crowd outside the recently renovated Park Slope Library’s historic building at Sixth Avenue and 9th Street. “Increasingly, they are also the education, culture, technology, and community centers in our neighborhoods. This is a vital public good that we simply cannot afford to cut.”
According to the proposed NYC budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) system could face a 36 percent cut on June 30 — nearly 1/3 of their current budget.
The New York Public Library (NYPL), which provides library services to Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, could lose over a third of its current budget — $47 million of $133.6 million.
The Queens Public Library system would also be impacted. Collectively, the three city public libraries would be slashed $106.7 million — 51 percent below the 2008 budget, which supported libraries being open six days a week.
BPL President/CEO Linda E. Johnson testified along with NYPL President Anthony Marx and QPL President Tom Galante to the NY City Council that the proposed cuts would result in the following citywide consequences:
- 1,445 staff members will be laid off and another 124 lost to attrition.
- At least 66 libraries will be closed altogether and dozens of others will have their hours drastically slashed.
- Today, the average library in New York City is open about 44 hours per week. This proposal would bring that average down to a dismal 22 hours per week. This is certainly not sufficient to serve working families and students.
According to BPL’s Speak Up campaign, which asks “Where would you be without the Brooklyn Public Library,” a shuttered or shrunken library would also hamper or eliminate access to free computers and WiFi service, job search assistance, story time activities, technical skill programs, and cultural events.