Amsterdam News Staff

Last Friday, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, along with library advocates, workers and presidents, gathered at City Hall to urge the city to better fund libraries. According to those in attendance, libraries won’t be able to keep up with their current pace of service without more investment.

“Our public libraries are the jewels of our neighborhoods,” stated Garrido. “They receive more than 40 million visits each year and need to be properly funded to serve our communities, and to do so six days a week. In addition, too many libraries are in disrepair, and need maintenance work urgently. We call on the mayor and City Council to do the right thing and add $16 million to their operating budgets and $60 million in capital funding.”

Operating costs have increased, according to Garrido and company. The group’s Libraries Are for Everyone campaign wants an additional $16 million in expense funding to better fund six-day service and $60 million in capital funding for facility maintenance.

“Public libraries are the lynchpins of an open and democratic society, and provide opportunities for growth and empowerment to all at no cost,” stated Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We recognize there will always be difficult budgetary decisions to make, as there is a finite number of dollars to allocate. However, we are courting an impending crisis. While we will continue to operate at maximum efficiency, the reality is that rising costs and rising demands will eventually push us to the point where hard decisions will have to be made that will noticeably affect the public.”

In a video promoting the Libraries Are for Everyone campaign, advocates tout how New Yorkers from all walk of life attain knowledge and grow relationships and friendships through their neighborhood public library. Advocates also mention ESOL and citizenship classes, resume workshops and even fostering video-visitation for New Yorkers who have loved one incarcerated.

New York City Council Member and Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jimmy Van Bramer said that his 11 years as an employee of the Queens Library have shown him the importance of libraries in the city. He said libraries are particularly important to those who can’t afford equipment and access outside of that environment.

“Libraries are truly our most democratic institutions and represent a place where all can come to find a sense of community, feel welcome and valued for who they are, and empowered to improve themselves and their neighborhoods,” stated Van Bramer. “Last year, we secured an increase of $110 million in capital funding, but we need more. I’m proud of the work we’ve done together, and I stand with our libraries today in calling for $16 million in expense funding to adequately fund six-day service and $60 million in capital funding to repair and improve facilities. Maintaining and increasing essential services for all New Yorkers is imperative.”

Members of the Libraries Are for Everyone campaign then testified at a City Council budget hearing and delivered 50,000 letters to City Hall written by New Yorkers from across the five boroughs demanding more funding to their local libraries.