New Yorkers Deserve Better than Stagnant Library Funding

photo of teh front facade of the BPL central library, with the words "do we only deserve half a library, per capita funding for NYC libraries is HALF the state Average"Did you know that the per capita library funding in NYC is approximately half the state average?

New York City deserves better. Better library funding for operating budgets, better library buildings, increased programming, more technology access, you get the point.

Today at Noon the NYC Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and Intergroup Relations will be holding a hearing on library funding in the FY19 city budget. Once again the budget is flat, and again we are faced with the possibility of trying meet much higher costs with the same amount of money. We all know how this feels. It’s like when your rent spikes but your salary doesn’t.photo of leanard library, with a thermometer showing 87 degrees and teh words "New Yorkers deserve better than broken HVACS"

And that’s just operating funding, All three library systems are still faced with large capital budget shortfalls. They need increased funding to meet the backlog of maintenance needs. There are broken HVACs that cause closures, buildings that don’t meet ADA standards, and did you know that it’s NOT supposed to rain inside the library?

So what do we do?

We fight the heck out of it. Libraries in NYC have been left out of the economic prosperity of the last few years, and that means that our patrons are also being left out of that. They deserve better. So you need to speak up.

Start by Signing a letter

Then write a postcard, share on Twitter and Instagram, call your councilman’s office. Then if you have time, read our testimony below!

Urban Librarians Unite – Executive Budget Testimony
May 18, 2018

As representatives of Urban Librarians Unite, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony today.

Over the last year libraries have continued to open the doors to everyone in our community. Continued to provide access to learning and recreational opportunities, continued to help with social services, immigration issues, NYC continues to be a center for library innovation. As an outside group let us tell you that having three of the finest library systems in the world in the same city in constant friendly competition with one another has wonderful benefits for all of our patrons and the residents of New York City.

An increase of 16 million dollars will allow us to continue that work. With no funding increase in 3 years, it is difficult to maintain the same services, much less expand services. Costs have gone up, but the funding level hasn’t. It is disruptive and inefficient to have this constant worry and concern, sure it is not the budget dance but in some ways it feels like the same old shuffle. Library administration, leadership, and the individual managers of branches all have to devote huge amounts of time trying to compensate for unstable budgets. We thank you for the gains that we have made but if those gains are not built into long term planning than we are just setting the Tri-Li up for more deep issues in years to come.

As an organization made up of front line library staff here at ULU it’s the little thing that that will make the most difference. The minimum wage has increased, but the amount of money available for part time salaries has not. Usually we would be hiring hiring seniors helping them to continue to contribute to their community and to continue to make a wage after retirement. Yes, we would also be hiring the classic teen aged pages who put books on the shelves and it should come as no surprise to you that those pages are the seeds of our profession in the future. We have on our own board a librarian who started off as a teen mentor in the Queens Far Rockaway Library and now provides leadership on library issues at a national level, that’s not hyperbole, we work with the guy, he’s on our board. We can’t do this if we don’t have increased funding at the basic level we need people to shelve the books, teach the classes, run the programs, so that we can do the amazing things that the library presidents have told you about today. You are sitting on a furnace of innovation, why stifle it?

As we navigate what it means to be an inclusive city, libraries are perfectly poised to play a major role. They are one of our most trusted public institutions and they are that way because YOU have made them that way. It’s due to the hard work of supporters like Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Speaker Cory Johnson that our libraries are able to be cost effective, high impact, neighborhood-level embedded catalysts for social good. (speaking of cost effective, do you know what to do if you need copper wire in a library? Throw a penny between two children’s librarians).

If the three library systems which serve Our Fair City have to start making tough decisions, they just won’t be able to contribute the same way. We are growing, we are innovating, we are staffed and we are ready, let us work, let us serve, let us be agents of change, joy and growth in our communities. We will work so hard for you, but you know that, Thank you for what you have done and what you WILL do to support libraries in New York City.

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