Leaders of the city’s three library systems on Tuesday warned of a reduction in public service hours as well as collections and materials if Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed budget is approved.
“What is most predominantly at risk here is our library materials, which we would have to reduce, and this is in neighborhoods where people don't even have books at home,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx at a City Council committee hearing.
The public library systems face a 3.2% decrease, or a cut of $13.8 million, from the previous year’s budget of $431.9 million.
In the preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, the city proposed $418.1 million in spending to cover the 217 branches across the five boroughs, said Councilmember Chi Ossé, chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations committee.
He emphasized the pivotal role libraries held for city residents during the pandemic.
“The three systems also worked closely with the [previous] administration to offer vital services to city residents, hence I am very disappointed to see reduction to operation subsidy to the systems,” Ossé said at the hearing.
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said Brooklyn branches would have to make similar adjustments.
“We spend a lot of money on salaries and wages and material, and cuts require us to be staffed too leanly — if that’s a word — and staffing levels translate specifically to hours that we’re able to operate,” Johnson said.
She said that the ability of the communities they serve to trust and rely on the library system is tantamount to their work.
“It’s important to be consistent and it's important to be there for the community when we say we will be there,” she said.
Nick Buron, chief librarian for the Queens Public Library, called on the council to advocate for the library system to be included in the mayor’s 10-year capital plan, saying the current fundraising plan is “piecemeal” and “inefficient” and often resulting in several budget cycles before projects can be adequately funded.