In your opinion, what is the role of the library in the City?
The only thing I ever wanted to do was be involved in politics and government—I attribute this almost exclusively to the library at my parish elementary school, St. Patrick’s. It contained a section on biographies of political people, famous people, and famous women—from Susan B. Anthony to Eleanor Roosevelt—and I loved those books. I read them till they were dog-eared. Libraries are extremely personal to me, and I know how important they can be. They are special, peaceful places where job-seekers can learn new skills, immigrants can get information on how to assimilate and access services, residents without computers can use the internet, or people can just shut out noise and distractions and focus on a book in silence. I named my autobiography “With Patience and Fortitude” after the marble lions in front of the Public Library on 5th Avenue in part as a tribute to the things that have a special, permanent place in the lives of New Yorkers, and our library system is among them. I am proud of our libraries and look forward to supporting them as mayor.
Libraries in New York City are facing $106.7M in cuts in the current executive budget. What would you do to prevent the “budget dance” of proposed cuts and restorations that New York’s libraries have been forced to endure for the past four years?
I avoided the budget dance altogether when I made sure the $106.7 million stayed in the budget. I personally find library closings unthinkable and believe that we will simply have to continue making library funding a top priority. I have protected library funding consistently for the past eight budgets as Speaker, and I will make sure this pattern continues as mayor.
In March of this year, District Council 37 launched a campaign for the establishment of a permanent funding stream for the City’s public library systems, proposing “city legislation to allocate 2.5 percent of existing citywide property tax levies for dedicated, baseline public library funding.” Would you support such a baseline funding model for our libraries, and why or why not?
In 2006, I worked to establish a baseline of six-day service for all our public libraries across the City. Despite the 2008-2009 recession, I have fought to maintain library services at as close to that level as possible, and I will bring back full six-day service when I’m mayor. If we had been required to maintain the same level of library services throughout the recession and the recovery, we would have had to make deeper cuts elsewhere. I do believe in baseline funding for libraries in order to avoid the annual cuts and restorations, and to enable libraries to better plan for the future, but I believe that committing to a dedicated funding stream is a mistake because it restricts the City’s fiscal flexibility.
New York City’s three public library systems are open an average of 43 hours a week, compared to roughly 50 hours a week in Chicago and Boston, 55 in Toronto and 70 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (Ohio). How would your administration support public libraries in New York City in order to expand hours and services?
I agree that New York’s libraries should expand hours and services. We need to be a leader in this area, given how many people live in this city and rely on our libraries. As mayor I will fight to increase library hours, bringing back six-day service with a goal of seven-day service when funding allows. Our libraries are critically important to the people of this city and I believe they should be open as much as possible.
Public libraries are commonly known as “the people’s university,” providing resources and services for young adults, English-language learners, small businesses, job seekers, seniors, and more. What would you do to help libraries in their work to support lifelong learning for all ages?
I recently proposed using the city’s 206 libraries as community resource centers, or “Mini City Halls,” improving delivery and access of services. Under this plan, libraries will serve as a one-stop shop for New Yorkers seeking help navigating access to important programs and services. With Mini City Halls, we’ll bring all that City Hall has to offer right to New Yorker’s doorsteps. This program will be community-specific, providing health screening, English lessons and tax preparation help, as well as many other services. Additionally, as I mentioned above, the most important step in helping libraries in their work is keeping them open, and I will continue to make this a priority when I am mayor.