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Budgets Cut, But NYC's Libraries Thrive—For Now

Budgets Cut, But NYC's Libraries Thrive—For Now

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Free access to technology, help for immigrants, a safe space for kids. Branch libraries play an increasingly important role. But funding hasn't kept up. Will the lack of support undermine a critical civic resource? A report from City Limits
Free access to technology, help for immigrants, a safe space for kids. Branch libraries play an increasingly important role. But funding hasn't kept up. Will the lack of support undermine a critical civic resource? A report from City Limits

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Published by: City Limits (New York) on Jan 24, 2014
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05/15/2014

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City Limits • www.citylimits.org January 23, 2014 Page 1
Let's
 
get
 
this
 
out
 
of 
 
the
 
way:
 
Binyamin
 
Solomon
 
is
 
black
 
and
 
he's
 
Jewish
 
and
 
he
 
lives
 
in
 
Crown
 
Heights,
 
and
 
none
 
of 
 
those
 
things
 
are
 
the
 
subject
 
of 
 
this
 
story.
 
While
 
his
 
overlapping
 
identities
 
make
 
him
 
a
 
member
 
of 
 
an
 
interesting
 
if 
 
minuscule
 
minority,
 
Solomon
 
also
 
belongs
 
to
 
a
 
much
 
bigger
 
demographic:
 
the
 
nearly
 
3
 
million
 
New
 
Yorkers
 
without
 
broadband
 
Internet
 
access
 
at
 
home.
 
That
 
predicament
 
spurred
 
Solomon
 
to
 
membership
 
in
 
still
 
another
 
group,
 
regular
 
visitors
 
to
 
the
 
city's
 
libraries.
 
As
 
often
 
as
 
five
 
times
 
a
 
week,
 
he
 
spends
 
ninety
 
minutes
 
or
 
more
 
at
 
the
 
Eastern
 
Parkway
 
branch
 
of 
 
the
 
Brooklyn
 
Public
 
Library,
 
which
 
along
 
with
 
the
 
New
 
York
 
Public
 
Library
 
and
 
Queens
 
Borough
 
Public
 
Library
 
systems
 
operates
 
some
 
214
 
branches
 
throughout
 
the
 
five
 
boroughs.
 
Eight
 
years
 
ago,
 
Solomon
 
started
 
using
 
the
 
library's
 
computers,
 
becoming
 
more
 
familiar
 
with
 
them
 
through
 
the
 
help
 
of 
 
library
 
staff.
 
"It's
 
because
 
of 
 
them
 
I
 
know
 
as
 
much
 
as
 
I
 
know
 
now,"
 
he
 
said
 
in
 
a
 
recent
 
interview.
 
When
 
he
 
saw
 
a
 
promising
 
 job
 
ad
 
in
 
a
 
newspaper
 
last
 
year,
 
he
 
updated
 
his
 
resume
 
on
 
a
 
library
 
computer
 
and
 
printed
 
it
 
there
 
for
 
five
 
cents
 
a
 
page.
 
He
 
got
 
the
 
 job,
 
as
 
a
 
security
 
supervisor
 
at
 
the
 
Hudson
 
Yards
 
construction
 
site.
 
Now
 
he
 
stops
 
at
 
the
 
library
 
on
 
his
 
way
 
home
 
from
 
work
 
to
 
send
 
email,
 
check
 
Facebook
 
and
 
scout
 
the
 
occasional
 
item
 
from
 
an
 
online
 
store.
 
*
 
*
 
*
 
Thanks
 
to
 
people
 
like
 
Solomon,
 
demand
 
for
 
public
 
library
 
services
 
has
 
risen
 
dramatically
 
in
 
the
 
past
 
decade,
 
even
 
as
 
repeated
 
budget
 
cuts
 
have
 
 
City Limits • www.citylimits.org January 23, 2014 Page 2
 
Libraries
 
have
 
been
 
challenged
 
both
 
to
 
expand
 
and
 
to
 
contract—forces
 
felt 
 
throughout 
 
the
 
systems
 
at 
 
every
 
level
 
by
 
staff 
 
and
 
patrons
 
alike.
 
forced
 
libraries
 
to
 
operate
 
with
 
smaller
 
staffs,
 
reduced
 
hours,
 
shortened
 
weeks
 
and
 
shrinking
 
capital
 
investments.
 
Libraries
 
have
 
been
 
challenged
 
both
 
to
 
expand
 
and
 
to
 
contract—forces
 
felt
 
throughout
 
the
 
systems
 
at
 
every
 
level
 
by
 
staff 
 
and
 
patrons
 
alike.
 
In
 
places,
 
record
 
appetite
 
and
 
resource
 
constraints
 
not
 
only
 
cap
 
the
 
potential
 
for
 
further
 
flourishing
 
but
 
threaten
 
to
 
render
 
an
 
incomparable,
 
innovative
 
and
 
vibrant
 
institution
 
less
 
so.
 
After
 
years
 
of 
 
advocacy
 
campaigns
 
to
 
restore
 
money
 
lost
 
in
 
annual
 
spending
 
cuts,
 
library
 
advocates
 
are
 
pushing
 
the
 
city
 
for
 
deeper—and
 
more
 
consistent—funding
 
to
 
help
 
address
 
some
 
of 
 
the
 
key
 
issues
 
they
 
face:
 
how
 
to
 
balance
 
multiple
 
and
 
evolving
 
roles,
 
overcome
 
disparities
 
within
 
the
 
system,
 
and
 
maintain
 
and
 
invest
 
in
 
infrastructure
 
for
 
years
 
to
 
come.
 
A
 
report
 
on
 
the
 
libraries
 
issued
 
last
 
year
 
by
 
the
 
Center
 
for
 
an
 
Urban
 
Future
 
entitled
 
”Branches
 
of 
 
Opportunity"
 
found
 
circulation
 
had
 
risen
 
by
 
59
 
percent
 
from
 
a
 
decade
 
before,
 
and
 
attendance
 
at
 
library
 
programs
 
was
 
up
 
by
 
40
 
percent.
 
Data
 
from
 
the
 
three
 
library
 
systems
 
shows
 
circulation
 
in
 
FY13
 
was
 
down
 
from
 
that
 
FY11
 
record
 
of 
 
69
 
million
 
materials,
 
but
 
still
 
accounted
 
for
 
60.8
 
million
 
items
 
checked
 
out.
 
Program
 
attendance
 
at
 
branches
 
in
 
all
 
three
 
systems
 
last
 
year
 
surpassed
 
2.5
 
million,
 
while
 
New
 
York
 
Public
 
Library
 
branches—libraries
 
in
 
Manhattan,
 
the
 
Bronx,
 
and
 
Staten
 
Island—logged
 
more
 
than
 
14
 
million
 
visits.
 
The
 
Brooklyn
 
Public
 
Library
 
system
 
recorded
 
nearly
 
300,000
 
wireless
 
sessions
 
in
 
FY13,
 
nearly
 
triple
 
the
 
number
 
recorded
 
three
 
years
 
before,
 
and
 
issued
 
more
 
than
 
167,000
 
new
 
library
 
cards,
 
while
 
the
 
Queens
 
library
 
also
 
topped
 
100,000
 
in
 
new
 
cards
 
issued.
 
Far
 
from
 
being
 
replaced
 
by
 
the
 
Internet
 
and
 
e
books,
 
the
 
CUF
 
report
 
established
 
that
 
libraries
 
are
 
more
 
important
 
than
 
ever
 
in
 
the
 
digital
 
age,
 
an
 
essential
 
institution
 
helping
 
to
 
bridge
 
the
 
city's
 
digital
 
divide
 
and
 
enable
 
people
 
from
 
every
 
demographic
 
to
 
develop
 
skills
 
and
 
resources
 
they
 
need
 
to
 
navigate
 
an
 
information
based
 
economy.
 
Along
 
with
 
access
 
to
 
computers
 
and
 
the
 
Internet,
 
the
 
library
 
branches
 
offer
 
 job
 
search
 
and
 
resume
writing
 
workshops;
 
early
 
literacy,
 
English
 
language,
 
GED
 
and
 
citizenship
 
classes;
 
and
 
other
 
programs
 
vital
 
to
 
education,
 
employment
 
and
 
survival
 
for
 
people
 
who
 
may
 
not
 
find
 
those
 
needs
 
met
 
anywhere
 
else.
 
Robust
 
demand
 
is
 
visible
 
as
 
libraries
 
have
 
expanded
 
their
 
uses
 
and
 
embraced
 
a
 
new
 
role
 
as
 
community
 
hubs.
 
Once
 
seen
 
as
 
repositories
 
for
 
books
 
and
 
quiet
 
spaces
 
for
 
reading,
 
libraries
 
bustle
 
with
 
programs
 
each
 
week,
 
from
 
toddler
 
story
 
times
 
to
 
open
mic
 
nights,
 
poetry
 
readings
 
for
 
speakers
 
of 
 
various
 
languages,
 
knitting
 
and
 
crochet
 
groups,
 
storytelling
 
workshops,
 
movie
 
screenings
 
aimed
 
at
 
teens
 
and
 
seniors
 
and
 
homework
 
help
 
sessions
 
for
 
schoolchildren.
 
When
 
the
 
new
 
Mariners
 
Harbor
 
branch
 
opened
 
in
 
Staten
 
Island
 
in
 
December,
 
city
 
probation
 
officers
 
attended
 
the
 
grand
 
opening,
 
saying
 
they
 
planned
 
to
 
introduce
 
their
 
charges
 
to
 
its
 
computers
 
and
 
programs.
 
The
 
library,
 
which
 
 
City Limits • www.citylimits.org January 23, 2014 Page 3
 
Source:
 
MMR
 
0%10%20%30%40%50%60%70%80%90%100%FY09 FY10 FY11 FY12 FY13 FY14
Share
 
of 
 
Brooklyn
 
Branches
 
with
 
Six
 
Days
 
of 
 
Service
 
Per
 
Week 
was
 
built
 
after
 
a
 
decades
long
 
push
 
by
 
residents
 
for
 
a
 
branch
 
they
 
could
 
walk
 
to,
 
now
 
gets
 
two
 
requests
 
a
 
day
 
from
 
community
 
groups
 
to
 
use
 
its
 
community
 
room,
 
says
 
branch
 
manager
 
Elizabete
 
Pata.
 
"That
 
 just
 
goes
 
to
 
show
 
you
 
how
 
coveted
 
that
 
space
 
is,"
 
she
 
says.
 
Pata
 
sees
 
teenagers
 
clustered
 
around
 
the
 
branch's
 
Apple
 
computers
 
(it
 
is
 
only
 
the
 
second
 
NYPL
 
branch
 
to
 
have
 
them)
 
and
 
its
 
lounge
style
 
seating,
 
but
 
many
 
are
 
also
 
avid
 
readers,
 
she
 
says.
 
"We're
 
getting
 
to
 
know
 
everyone
 
by
 
name.
 
We
 
have
 
literally
 
had
 
this
 
one
 
girl"–Pata
 
thinks
 
she
 
is
 
a
 
third
 
grader
 
from
 
nearby
 
P.S.
 
44—"come
 
in
 
every
 
day,"
 
on
 
her
 
own.
 
"It's
 
already
 
more
 
of 
 
a
 
community
 
center,
 
in
 
that
 
aspect,
 
 just
 
a
 
safe
 
place
 
for
 
kids
 
to
 
come
 
after
 
school."
 
"No
 
other
 
institution
 
is
 
more
 
accessible
 
to
 
people,"
 
said
 
City
 
Councilmember
 
Vincent
 
Gentile,
 
who
 
has
 
served
 
as
 
chair
 
of 
 
the
 
Council's
 
libraries
 
committee,
 
in
 
an
 
interview.
 
"It's
 
the
 
perfect
 
system
 
we
 
can
 
use
 
to
 
appeal
 
to
 
different
 
constituencies
 
across
 
the
 
board,
 
whether
 
it's
 
businessmen,
 
or
 
children,
 
or
 
boomers
 
who
 
want
 
to
 
start
 
a
 
new
 
career,
 
seniors,
 
or
 
someone
 
looking
 
to
 
learn
 
a
 
new
 
language.
 
And
 
it's
 
for
 
free."
 
Much
 
of 
 
libraries'
 
value
 
rests
 
in
 
the
 
"across
 
the
 
board
 
openness
 
of 
 
the
 
resource,"
 
observes
 
Katya
 
Schapiro,
 
children's
 
librarian
 
at
 
Brooklyn's'
 
Bay
 
Ridge
 
branch.
 
"It's
 
a
 
really
 
rare
 
thing,"
 
she
 
says.
 
"Everybody
 
can
 
walk
 
in.
 
Everybody
 
gets
 
the
 
same
 
service."
 
*
 
*
 
*
 

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