NYC public libraries say proposed budget cuts may ‘push us over the edge’


New York City’s public libraries may have to cut staff, hours, branches and programming as they face potential multi-million-dollar budget cuts in Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to curtail city spending.

Under the administration’s so-called Program to Eliminate the Gap, city libraries could face a total of $13.6 million in reductions for the current fiscal year (ending in June 2023) and $20.5 million in each of the next three fiscal years, as highlighted in a report released on Thursday by the city comptroller. The report relied on PEG figures released by the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget on Nov. 15.

“We have become more efficient. But at some point you get to the bone,” said Tony Marx, president and CEO of New York Public Library at a City Council oversight hearing on libraries on Thursday. “This may push us over the edge.”

Library leaders argue that their institutions provide vital services – free books, Wi-Fi, computer access, online content and educational programs, among others – in 200 neighborhoods across the city, including in underserved communities. Councilmember Chi Ossé — chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations — agreed.

“We truly believe [the cuts are] going to affect one of the only public spaces in New York City,” he said during the hearing.

Library officials said they’re still calculating how exactly the proposed budget cuts would affect their services – but if the Council approves the budget proposals, public libraries may be forced to decide if they should cut hours, branches, programming or other services Marx called “foundational” for communities.

Already facing existing vacancies, Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library, said the system will be forced to slash wages and salaries, which will in turn decrease the number of hours opened and programs they can offer.

“The thing about the library business is that it is highly labor intensive,” she said. “They’re not a lot of places to go to save money, to cut the budget.”

Under the proposed cuts, the Brooklyn Public Library could lose $3.7 million in city funds. The New York Public Library branch system could lose nearly $5 million in city funds, according to the OMB’s report.

“No one else is focused on doing that in the pockets of the population that are the least resourced and are participating the least and getting the least as a result,” Marx said. “And we are in those neighborhoods.”

To offset looming budget deficits, the Adams administration announced the cuts in September, ordering across-the-board agency spending cuts of 3% this fiscal year and 4.75% in the three following fiscal years. The city will save $2.5 billion over the next two years if the proposed budget cuts are implemented, OMB found.

The Council’s next stated meetings, during which a vote on the proposals may occur, are planned for Dec. 21 and Jan. 4.


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