2015-03-25 / Front Page

'Invest In Libraries'

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, Council Libraries Sub-Committee Chair Costa Constantinides and library leaders launched a citywide campaign to invest in libraries. City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, Council Libraries Sub-Committee Chair Costa Constantinides and library leaders launched a citywide campaign to invest in libraries. On March 20, New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer; Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras; Councilman Costa Constantinides, Chair, Sub-Committee on Libraries; heads of New York City’s three library institutions – Queens Library, New York Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library – members of District Council 37 and library advocates from all five boroughs launched a major campaign, “Invest in Libraries,” to reverse years of neglect and urge the city to appropriately fund the library system. The campaign will also release a new report detailing some of the most egregious examples of branches in need of capital funding.

The newly-formed campaign, Invest in Libraries, is a partnership among the three library systems and library supporters across the city. The campaign is calling for $1.1 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance – a mere one percent of the city’s 10-year Capital Plan – and a $65 million increase in operating expenses in this year’s budget, to provide the programs and services New Yorkers demand and expect from their local branches at least six days a week.

City funding for public libraries has been slashed by nearly 20 percent over the last seven years, and library staff has been reduced by over 1,000 workers. Many branches across the city aren’t even able to stay open six days a week.

In addition to the report, the campaign launched the website, investinlibraries.org, where New Yorkers can go to take action and stay updated on the campaign.

Highlights from Long Overdue: NYC’s $1.1 Billion Library Fine (full report: http://investinlibraries.org/img/overdue.pdf):

 The city’s libraries are facing a “maintenance crisis,” with issues such as overcrowding, chronic water damage, out-of-order bathrooms, malfunctioning windows, broken elevators, inadequate outlets, heating and cooling problems, and ADA inaccessibility.

 Crowded branches in high-need areas are in need of some of the most serious upgrades.

 Some branches have unused spaces sitting vacant that could be turned into programming spaces for kids, teens or adults.

 Without adequate funding, libraries have been forced to make do with temporary patches instead of addressing underlying problems – painting over chronic leaks instead of replacing deteriorating roofs, for example. According to the report, this cannot be sustained.

Despite these and other problems, library staff members have creatively found ways to keep their branches open and serve their patrons – but they could do even more if repairs and capital problems did not create constant issues.

“Our city’s library branches are literally crumbling,” said Van Bramer, Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee. “This report highlights the tremendous need and maintenance crisis that is plaguing our city’s neighborhood library branches. Without increasing the operating and capital budgets for the city’s three library institutions millions of New Yorkers will continue to lose access to the very resources and programs that are pulling them into the middle class. Now is the time to act. By securing this much-needed funding we can continue improving the lives of all New Yorkers for generations to come.”

“The Council was disappointed that the Preliminary Budget did not include additional funding for New York City libraries and cultural institutions. I have been eyewitness to our library’s superb multilingual services, after-school programs, and free technology offerings. With such fantastic community-oriented services, the Finance Committee will be fighting hard this budget cycle to secure the $1.1 billion our library systems need for repairs, so they can match their exceptional programs with quality space,” stated Ferreras.

Constantinides said, “Libraries provide irreplaceable services helping everyone regardless of age, origin, or economic status. That’s all with over $1 billion of unmet capital needs. To ensure that our libraries can continue to provide their integral services, I join the call for $65 million in operating funding and $1.1 billion in capital funding, as well as a better way to allocate this funding. I thank my colleagues, Councilmembers Ferreras and Van Bramer, for their leadership on this important budgetary issue. I commend all our library systems for their dedicated work throughout our city.”

“In the first half of Fiscal Year ‘15, visitorship at Queens Library is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7 percent over the past six months, and up 43 percent over the past five years. We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this city – as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries. Together we can ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO, Queens Library.

“New Yorkers support strong, fully funded libraries, yet even as demand for our collections and services continues to grow, city funding for libraries remains below 2008 levels,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda Johnson. “The recession that precipitated the city’s budget cuts is behind us, and with the approval of our capital and operating budget requests, New York’s libraries will finally experience the recovery they deserve.”

“It is unimaginable that in New York City in the 21st century, public libraries – great equalizers that provide irreplaceable services and opportunities for all people – cannot maintain their branches or plan ahead for critical repairs,” said Tony Marx, President of the New York Public Library. “As our new report vividly demonstrates, New York’s public libraries are facing a maintenance crisis. It is imperative that we work with the city to reverse years of inadequate capital funding, as well as fully restore our budget for staffing. We need to modernize and repair our libraries and ensure that they have a full array of expert librarians and educational programs so that they can continue to meet the needs of the public and strengthen communities.”

Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37 stated, “Public libraries play a vital – and constantly evolving role in our neighborhoods and communities. They are treasures of cultural enrichment, but they are also learning, job and social centers. Funding for these jewels of our city is more urgent than ever as front-line staffing has plummeted by 21 percent since 2009. We need to restore six-day service throughout the city’s five boroughs. Many branch libraries are 100 or 50 years old – and desperately in need of a makeover. We need new construction to reach underserved neighborhoods. We urge all New Yorkers to reach out to City Hall – to the Mayor and the City Council – to ensure that libraries are fully supported in the budget.”

“For decades New York City has allowed our library buildings to rot and fester while at the same time the librarians and library workers have been doing some of the most innovative library work in the world. Libraries are the great equalizers in society, the titanium crowbar that allows all of us to lift ourselves up and change our lives. It is time for us to have the staff and resources that we need to support all New Yorkers in every neighborhood across our magnificent city,” stated Christian Zabriski of Urban Libraries Unite.

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