Library Budget Hearing, Beyond the Galante Controversy

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The main reading room at the NYPL's main branch.

Photo by: Russavia

The main reading room at the NYPL's main branch.

Attention at yesterday's City Council budget hearing on libraries was understandably focused on Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante, who faces multiple investigations of his spending. But documents released at the meeting described the bigger picture facing the city's three systems. As the Council's briefing document noted:

“Large funding deficits to the three systems beginning in Fiscal 2011 necessitated the Council and the Administration to restore funding, and in Fiscal 2014 the Council provided $12.7 million and the Administration provided $93.4 million to restore proposed cuts. This $106.2 million restoration was included in the November Plan for Fiscal 2015 and in the outyears. This baseline funding allows the library systems to continue to employ nearly 3,800 people across the City. “

In other words, the decision by the Bloomberg administration to end the annual budget dance (at least as it pertained to libraries) has put the libraries on a relatively stable footing. Mayor De Blasio's budget basically sticks to that script, less $169,000 or so.

The Council's report continued: “Although the libraries have experienced year-over-year funding losses since Fiscal 2008, there continues to be a steady increase in circulation and overall attendance at public library branches throughout the City. … [W]ith baselined funding the expectation is that the three systems will be able to maintain services at high levels.”

Of course, everything's relative. The libraries are at a stable place now compared to where they were a few years back. But that's still probably dwarfed by what they could be doing with more resources.

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