NYC public libraries say $36.2M budget cut will impact service, free programs

March 21, 2023

Image courtesy of the New York Public Library

New York City’s three public library systems are protesting Mayor Eric Adams’ planned $36.2 million budget cuts in the FY24 budget. Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson, Queens Public Library President Dennis M. Walcott, and New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx testified in front of the City Council on Monday, warning the proposed budget cut could lead to reduced hours of service and fewer free programs, classes, and other opportunities thousands of New Yorkers depend on.

Before the budget hearing, thousands of New Yorkers rallied in front of City Hall to protest the cuts. Library officials, staff, and union allies, including New Yorkers of all ages, spoke in support of the library systems and wore bright shirts reading “Libraries are for everyone!”

In addition to the library’s leaders, members of DC37, a union that represents a large portion of the library system’s workers, testified at the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations against the cuts. They were joined by teenagers who attribute their career growth and ability to get through the pandemic to the city’s libraries.

The rally was the first of several events the three library systems are planning in response to the city’s budget. An email campaign that launched last week has already resulted in more than 30,000 letters getting sent to City Hall.

The city’s library systems have remained vital for NYC’s recovery from the pandemic, and in just the past year have expanded services for teens, students, and for asylum-seekers learning to navigate the city. They’ve also proudly offered book titles that have been banned in states around the country.

“New York’s public libraries have risen to meet many of the challenges we are facing as a city. We want to keep up this work, but these cuts will impact our operations across the board, whether it be the capacity to open new branches, keep our current hours, maintain our collections, or offer programs,” Marx said.

“If this budget becomes a reality we are going to have to make tough choices about what we can and can’t provide our patrons. No one wants that.”

In January, Adams released his preliminary $103 billion budget for the next fiscal year, citing the city’s current economic challenges as the reason for funding cuts for public libraries and schools.

“Since day one, fiscal discipline has been the hallmark of this administration,” Adams said during a press conference releasing his proposed budget. “We are focused on governing efficiently and measuring success not by how much we spend, but by our achievements. This budget protects funding for the essential services that continue to keep the city safe and clean, drive equity and affordability, and keep us on the path to prosperity.”

The mayor’s executive budget will be released in April, followed by negotiations with the Council before a final budget agreement is reached, which is required by July 1.



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