NYC’s Three Public Libraries Protest Planned $36.2M Budget Cuts at City Hall
Cuts Could Impact Hours, Service, and Crucial Support for New Yorkers Most in Need
Visuals available here
March 20, 2023 — The heads of New York City’s three public library systems testified today at the New York City Council to call on the City to reverse a planned $36.2M in proposed budget cuts in the FY24 budget. In addition, members of DC37, the union that represents a large majority of Library workers, also testified at the the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations against the cuts, along with teenagers who credit the city’s public libraries with helping them navigate the pandemic and with their academic and career growth.
Prior to the budget hearing, Library leadership, staff, union allies, and supporters from every borough and every age group, rallied in front of City Hall to protest the cuts. Many wore bright orange t-shirts that read “Libraries are for everyone!” Supporters also carried signs that read: “No cuts to Libraries.” This is the first of several events the three libraries are planning with supporters to protest the cuts. An email writing campaign launched last week has garnered over 30,000 letters to City Hall in just seven days.
Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott, and New York Public Library President Tony Marx all testified that the cuts would severely impact their system’s ability to deliver the free services, programs, and resources New Yorkers depend on. Copies of their prepared remarks are available.
Library services have remained crucial to the city's recovery from the pandemic and have also adapted to further champion access to information, fostering community collaboration, and ensuring all New Yorkers have a welcoming and inclusive space.
In the past year, the three Library systems expanded Teen Centers and services for students, supported asylum-seekers navigating New York City, and made frequently banned titles available to all. The proposed budget cut of $36.2 million could hinder these efforts and lead to reduced hours of service, fewer programs and classes, and decreased opportunities for underserved New Yorkers, including those most in need, such as teens and immigrants.
"New York's public libraries have risen to meet many of the challenges we are facing as a city. We want to keep up this work, but these cuts will impact our operations across the board, whether it be the capacity to open new branches, keep our current hours, maintain our collections, or offer programs. If this budget becomes a reality we are going to have to make tough choices about what we can and can’t provide our patrons. No one wants that," said Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library.
"We all know the critical role libraries play in keeping people connected, bridging the digital divide and ensuring people of all ages and backgrounds have access to safe spaces and free resources. A trusted place where they can learn English, find resume help or simply escape into a good book. Libraries and the people who work in them are crucial to the wellbeing of our great city. If these deep cuts proceed, we will have to make agonizing decisions regarding service hours, programming, and our collections. I'm energized by the overwhelming support we have received from thousands of New Yorkers who are standing with us to urge the City to support our libraries." said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.
“Public libraries and their dedicated staffs have supported and strengthened New York City for more than 125 years, offering information, knowledge and opportunity for all. The potential cuts to our budgets would undoubtedly affect our hours, programs, and collections, even as we work to support individuals who are recovering from the pandemic, help asylum seekers adjust to their new home, address food insecurity, assist job seekers, expand opportunities for teens, and so much more. We hope the City Council will help protect our funding and protect the vital services New Yorkers rely on,” said Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott.
"Our library branches are vital for connecting New York City residents to their history, to the outside world and to each other. Our communities can’t afford to lose these essential services at a time when access to information, free programming and educational resources is more important than ever. We call on City Hall and the City Council to restore this critical funding immediately," said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37.
“For the universally-shared goals of improving education, public safety, and the economy, there are few more efficient or effective ways to invest our tax dollars than into our treasured libraries. The services and resources these institutions offer to New Yorkers of all ages are essential and unmatched. Whether in best of times or the worst of times, funding cuts for libraries should always be off the table,” said Council Member Chi Ossé.
“Libraries are an essential resource for people of all ages. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have access to a library every day after school. As a teacher, I found libraries to be an invaluable tool for my students. They provide a safe and welcoming environment for youth to explore and learn. Now, libraries are a place for my own family to go. I am thankful that my family and everyone across NYC can take advantage of their resources today, and I will continue to support our libraries,” said Council Member Eric Dinotwitz.
“Libraries are vital for our community; they are more than just a place to read books. Libraries help ensure that people can access the information they need regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, or geographic barriers. So we are doing everything we can to make sure they receive the right funding,” said Council Member Francisco Moya.
“Libraries serve people of every ethnicity, age and economic class. We already devote just a small fraction of the city’s budget to funding our libraries, but the return on that investment is immeasurable. It is unconscionable that we are now considering asking them to do the same with less by asking them to accept damaging budget cuts. I will work to ensure that our city’s libraries have the funding they need to continue to provide vital programs and services to our communities,” said Council Member Sandra Ung.
About the Campaign
The #InvestInLibraries campaign is a partnership between the city’s three public library systems—Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library—and other library supporters across the city. Since the campaign launched in 2015, the City has allocated additional funding for programming as well as critical capital dollars to help address the over $1 billion in need facing the city’s aging library infrastructure. Despite this important support, libraries confront rising costs and increased demand for more services and programs (from New Yorkers and the City). The campaign urges the City to restore and increase funding to meet rising needs, demands, and costs