Public library systems are calling on the City Council to reverse the mayor’s proposed cuts to next year’s budget.

Leaders of the library systems insist the cuts will mean further reductions to service and delaying indefinitely the reopening of more than a half dozen branches undergoing renovations.
The city’s public libraries are facing a $58.3 million budget cut for 2025.

Flanked by councilmembers and library workers outside of City Hall Tuesday, the presidents of the Brooklyn, Queens and New York public libraries hoped to put a stop to the proposed cuts to the next fiscal year’s $109 billion budget.

“So it’s built into the budget itself so that means fewer programs, it means fewer books, it means personnel that we need to staff the library, we can’t hire, potentially means libraries staying shuttered,” Dennis Walcott, president of Queens Public Library, said.

Mayor Eric Adams said the cuts are necessary to deal with the city’s deficits, which are exacerbated by spending on newly arrived migrants.

But some councilmembers said it’s the wrong time to cut when library visitation is up, according to the mayor’s data.

The Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report shows the New York Public Library system welcomed 2.6 million visitors to its branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island from July to October 2023, compared 2.4 million during the same four-month window in 2022. Queens Public Library’s branches welcomed some 2.1 million visitors in the latest reporting window, compared with 1.8 million visitors in the four-month span in 2022. Brooklyn Public Library’s branches went up from 1.3 million in the 2022 four-month span to more than 1.8 million in the latest period.

Supporters are also calling on the mayor to restore November 2023 budget cuts of more than $26 million or 5% of the library systems’ budget.

“I don’t know anyone who hates the library, perhaps the mayor,” said Brooklyn Councilmember Shahana Hanif.

“This is a safe haven for our families,” said Queens Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers. “This is where our children go when they are waiting for their parents to get off or work so they can be safe from gang activity.”

While testifying before councilmembers following the rally, the presidents of the city’s three library systems said the mid-year cuts already forced them to cut back on Sunday hours, cut some programs and impose hiring freeze.

“We’ve already seen the end of Sunday service, which is tragic for New Yorkers,” Anthony Marx, president of New York Public Library, said. “We’ve had to reduce spending on our collections, our programming that’s depended on by so many. We’ve had to delay hiring.”

Library leaders said last year’s cuts plus the proposed cuts for the next fiscal year would mean most libraries would cut back from being opened at least six days a week to five days a week, delayed reopening of renovated branches and reduced spending on maintenance, materials and programming.

“The average branch is over 60 years old and 19 branches are over 100 years old,” Linda Johnson, president of Brooklyn Public Library, said. “Our deferred maintenance has grown to over $380 million. One-third of which is emergency infrastructure work like roofs, heating and cooling system.”

There’s been an increase in library visitors and councilmembers said there’s no explanation for the surge, but it comes as tens of thousands of newly arrived migrants are known to be patronizing libraries.