Candidate Name

John Liu

In your opinion, what is the role of the library in the City?

Libraries are important community cultural institutions that have many vital roles in this City. Among these priceless roles are: they are the gateway to knowledge, first through the book collections, and now, increasing through internet access for those who do not have it; they provide a quiet place to study and/or work; and for some, it is the place where many children are introduced to the joys of reading through many of the libraries children’s programs.

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 have spoken out about the terrible effects of the “budget dance” upon some of the most important organizations that we fund. This annual “dance” over a relatively small amount of the budget, but which supports important programs, distracts us from the negotiations on the larger parts of the budget, which are conducted outside of public scrutiny. I would have ended this “budget dance” and put the scrutiny on the larger part of the budget, where it belongs.

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?

I would have supported baseline funding for the libraries. They are too valuable to be subject to an annual budget dance, which diverts valuable library staff time and effort just to try to maintain a minimum budget.

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?

A good place to start would have been to baseline the library’s budget, but we must also increase the funding. In my People’s Budget, I propose to keep libraries open seven days a week and to expand their hours. I would raise the funding necessary to do this through a more progressive tax system where the wealthiest New Yorkers pay more, increase commercial real estate tax rates, charge private equity firms the Unincorporated Business Tax for carried interest, and clawback tax benefits from firms that don’t create the jobs they promise, among other things.

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?

Libraries do a terrific job in providing all of the service you discuss above. The main issue is that libraries do not get adequately funded. As discussed in the prior question, I would work to ensure libraries get adequate funding to fulfill and expand on its important work.