The city’s three library systems promise to hire nearly 800 people, expand hours and introduce new programs if the city boosts their funding by $65 million over what Mayor de Blasio has proposed.
That was the “deal” offered in testimony Tuesday to the City Council, where the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Borough Public Library praised de Blasio for ending the budget dance and, following Mayor Bloomberg’s November financial plan, base-lining the fiscal year 2014 level funding in the fiscal 2015 budget. In years past, the Bloomberg administration proposed cuts to the libraries, only to partially restore funding by the time the budget was finalized.
But while the end of the dance is welcomed, the cuts made to libraries during the recession years still haven’t been reversed. Compared to 2008, the libraries are still doing more (a lot more, if you read Suzanne Travers’ series on branch libraries) with less. According to Brooklyn library chief Linda Johnson, her system is still getting 20 percent less in operating funds than it did six years ago.
In exchange for its share of the additional fundings—about $28.7 million—NYPL would hire 320 more workers, increase average hours by 5.4 percent, increase after-school enrollment by 10-fold, double the size of English and technology classes and pursue a pilot program to provide broadband access to low-income families at home. “Not in the streets or in the parks, but into people’s homes, where they live and work,” said Tony Marx, the system’s chief.
Brooklyn’s libraries would hire 200 staffers and Queens some 250 people under the plan. Johnson says with that extra staff BPL would be able to increase the number of branches with seven-day-a-week service from two to 10 or 15.
The libraries’ request also covered capital funds—namely, a request to lock in $500 million in funding over four years. According to Marx, the systems have $1 billion in unmet capital needs.