Library Leaders Rally Against Proposed $58M Budget Cuts

Libraries have already been forced to close on Sunday as part of the first round of budget cuts unveiled by Mayor Eric Adams last November. Library leaders, who fear a Saturday shut down is ahead with a $58 million in budget cuts to the system looming next year, rallied recently at City Hall Park.

| 18 Mar 2024 | 11:29

Representatives of the city’s three public library systems—New York, Brooklyn and Queens—rallied to protest the Adams administration’s proposed $58.3 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2025 in a rally at City Hall Park on March 12.

Joining the protestors, who carried signs in English, Spanish and Chinese that read “Libraries Are For Everyone” and “No Cuts To Libraries!” were City Council Member Carlina Rivera, chair of the wide-ranging Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, and the three library presidents who would afterwards testify before that committee.

Although Rivera is part of the Council’s progressive wing, it bears stating that in no way is support for public libraries a partisan issue. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

The four Manhattan branches that had pre-budget cuts had limited Sunday hours—Jefferson Market in the West Village; the Main and Mid-Manhattan libraries kitty-corner from each other at 5th Avenue and 40th Street; and Washington Heights—remain closed.

Should Adams proposed budget prevail, many branches in all three library systems would be reduced to five days a week service.

Speaking against this possibility, and other budget-related library issues, were system Presidents Dennis Walcott of Queens; Linda Johnson of Brooklyn; and Tony Marx of NYPL, which also operates the Staten Island and Bronx public libraries.

While all three spoke with passion, their Committee presentations were, by necessity, more detailed than a public rally statement.

Still, there were some good lines. “Not a single library—not a single library in the City of New York, the greatest city in the world—is open seven days a week,” said Walcott. “This is New York City. That’s unacceptable.” Asserted Johnson: “Our libraries need more, not less. Our patrons deserve more, not less.”

Marx began by reviewing the fiscal year 2024; when the City Council’s budget fully restored library funding but Mayor Adams’ “PEG” (Program to Eliminate the Gap) budget reductions saw NYPL lose $10.33 million in funding. The Sunday library closures and reductions in services, programming, building maintenance and hiring followed.

For fiscal year 2025, Marx continued, NYPL would lose another $25.5M. “If implemented the impacts will be both devastating and unprecedented,” and threaten every part of the system, including the planned reopening of branches now under renovation, including, in Manhattan, two historic Carnegie libraries at Fort Washington and 125th Street.

“This budget dance,” Marx continued, “distracts us from effectively serving New Yorkers. Instead of spending time adjusting our offerings to be more reflective of community needs, our branch services team is trying to figure out how to maintain the current level of offerings with unfilled vacancies and more cuts on the way... So let’s end this year-round uncertainty and give New Yorkers the reliable, dependable service that they deserve.”