2010-03-24 / Features

Galante: Library Faced With ‘Devastating’ Budget Cuts

BY LINDA J. WILSON

Thomas Galante testified before the Select Committee on Libraries jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations as part of a Fiscal Year 2011 Preliminary Budget Hearing on March 16. “The cuts on the table would force hundreds of workers onto the unemployment rolls and cause libraries in communities throughout the borough to be closed more days per week than they are open.” Thomas Galante testified before the Select Committee on Libraries jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations as part of a Fiscal Year 2011 Preliminary Budget Hearing on March 16. “The cuts on the table would force hundreds of workers onto the unemployment rolls and cause libraries in communities throughout the borough to be closed more days per week than they are open.” “It is not an exaggeration to say that the Fiscal Year 2011 preliminary budget proposal is nothing short of devastating,” Queens Borough Public Library Chief Executive Officer Thomas Galante testified before the Select Committee on Libraries jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations as part of a Fiscal Year 2011 Preliminary Budget Hearing on March 16. “The cuts on the table would force hundreds of workers onto the unemployment rolls and cause libraries in communities throughout the borough to be closed more days per week than they are open,”

Galante added that the city financial plan for Fiscal Year 2011 would reduce funding by $14.4 million effective July 1, 2010. “That is on top of $11.5 million already cut,” he said. “State funding has been reduced $1 million, bringing total reductions to $26.9 million. This compares to $11.3 million provided in 2007 to open all libraries on Saturdays.”

Current Fiscal Year 2010 funding levels have caused the closing of all community libraries on Sundays and 48 of 62 libraries will close all weekend long by the end of calendar year 2010, as the library workforce diminishes through attrition to cut 160 jobs, Galante noted. Proposed FY’11 funding levels would cause further service reductions, to the lowest levels on record.

Galante declared that the cuts’ effects include:

• Laying off 350 employees in July, a 38 percent reduction in workforce.

• Adding a cost of $4 million for unemployment insurance.

• Requiring considerable resource allocations to much needed library expansions, including the opening of a remarkable 14,000-square-foot Children’s Library Discovery Center in FY 2011 that will further stretch staff and reduce service in other libraries.

• Still further deeply reducing books purchased, programs, building maintenance, furniture, and needed equipment.

Service cuts would bring about leaving only 13 community libraries (the largest, geographically disbursed) open six days a week. Twenty-four community libraries would be closed five days a week, and another 24 community libraries would be closed four days a week. Only the Central Library would remain open seven days a week.

“A reduction in hours of service eliminates access to all the free library services that nearly 50,000 people now enjoy each day,” Galante said. “This includes jobseekers using computers, school kids getting homework help, immigrants taking English classes and seniors. Given the severity of the proposed reduction, the outright closing of some community libraries will be evaluated so more service would be provided in the libraries that remain open.

“We see tens of thousands of students in our libraries after school each week taking advantage of our Best Out Of School Time (BOOST) program. We provide engaging programs and specialized tutors to help these students succeed in school. We employ teens as tutors and activity assistants. Our public computers, which are very often the only Internet access families have, provide a link to essential government services and benefits at a volume of 250,000 computer sessions monthly. Our Job Information Centers help people learn the necessary skills to successfully seek employment. Our adult literacy and English classes open a whole new universe of opportunity for some 6,000 people a year.

“Queens Library was recently recognized nationally as the Library Journal’s 2009 Library of the Year, in part because of the quality, depth and breadth of our programs and services. When service hours are reduced by over 40 percent—as would happen with this budget—nearly every opportunity library users currently have, to improve and enrich their lives, could be lost behind locked doors.

“While the mayor, the [council speaker] and city government embark on their ambitious plans to get people back to work, to support small business, to connect students to resources and job opportunities and to educate our adults, it would be counterproductive to shut the doors on an institution with a proven record of accomplishing all of those goals.”

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