The state of the city’s 207 public libraries is dismal.
Broken heating and air conditioning systems. Leaking roofs. Book stacks in disrepair.
The situation has become so untenable that the presidents of the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens library systems took the unusual step of holding a news conference outside City Hall to highlight what they call a “maintenance crisis” in the libraries and to beg City Hall for cash.
Their appeal was accompanied by a report estimating that it will take $1 billion to fix the problem - this at a time when the private sector in the city is booming, and more glamorous arts and cultural institutions are brimming with cash.
Not so our local libraries. Last year, the Center for an Urban Future found that libraries for years have been starved for cash, causing the maintenance crisis the city now faces. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly cut library budgets, leading to decreased staffing and facilities spending. “Despite public libraries’ ever more important role in keeping neighborhoods strong, city funding for libraries has not kept up, particularly for capital needs,” the report reads.
Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio kept library spending flat, which is a sort of progress, given recent cutbacks.
As for next year, according to The Wall Street Journal, the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget’s capital plan includes $566.1 million for libraries, including an increase in library capital funding for fiscal 2015 to $229 million from $205 million.