NYPL President Testifies on Proposed FY2013 Budget Cuts

March 13, 2012— The following are the prepared remarks of NYPL President Anthony Marx on the proposed FY 2013 budget, which calls for a $42M cut to the Library.

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March 13, 2012

Good morning, I am Tony Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library (NYPL). The NYPL system provides library services to the boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, as well as the research libraries for the entire City. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. It’s great to be here talking about libraries and the essential services that they offer. This is an especially significant occasion for me as this is my first budget testimony before this body. I am honored to be here today and I look forward to working with all of you over the coming years. I am joined by Anne Coriston - Vice President for Public Service and Sharon Hewitt-Watkins - Vice President for Finance. Before I begin, I would like to thank Speaker Christine Quinn, Committee Chairmen Domenic Recchia, Jimmy Van Bramer and Vincent Gentile and the members of the committee for your great support of libraries and for your continued support as we move forward during these difficult economic times.

We are here today to discuss the FY13 Preliminary Budget and the impact of the Mayor’s proposed $42.6 million cut to the NYPL. This proposed cut is in addition to cuts totaling $20.7 million already imposed since FY08, for a grand total of $63.3 million.

This cumulative $63.3 million of cuts means that FY13 funding (excluding inflationary reimbursements) would be a full 44% lower than the FY08 adopted budget.  At that time, the restoration to our budget was baselined and the Mayor and the Speaker committed to fully funding six-day library service.  As you are aware, the level of cuts since FY08 has made it increasingly difficult for us to provide the type of library service that New Yorkers need.

This past week, the PEW Charitable Trusts released a report entitled, “The Library in the City: Changing Demands and a Challenging Future”, detailing how “big-city public libraries have rarely been as popular as they are today and rarely as besieged.” This report tells us a lot of what we already know at NYPL. More patrons than ever are coming through our doors, checking out more materials, attending more programs and accessing more information. Libraries are community hubs that provide a safe space for teens, engaging activities for seniors, and access to critical financial and language information to our City’s adults. Our libraries are the only free education provider for New Yorkers of all ages.

Despite the continued downward trend of City funding, the NYPL continues to experience a system-wide surge in use. Last year alone:

  • There were 15.1 million visits to our branch libraries, 2.5 million visits to our research libraries and 31.2 million visits to our website, nypl.org;
  • 27.9 million items were circulated and even more were consulted from among our collection of over 50 million books and other materials;
  • 44,501 New Yorkers attended job-related classes at the Library;     
    • These classes remain vital to New Yorkers who are out of work, looking to change careers or start a new business.  Our librarians and volunteers provide a one stop shop for job-related assistance.
  • More than 44,922 programs and classes were offered system-wide; with an attendance 0f 967,324.

Over the last four years you have asked all City agencies, as well as the libraries, to do more with less. And we have. Here are just a few examples. Through a pilot program with the City’s Department of Education, we are aligning resources to ensure that all children in our City’s public schools, and their teachers, have access to library materials. We are currently piloting a program in 50 schools, throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, that provides access to the Library’s catalog of over 50 million items and allows direct lending services to these students and teachers. Now in its sixth month, this pilot has seen tremendous results. Since it began, 72,768 items have been checked out to students and teachers. Our data also shows that a student in this pilot is 2.8 times more likely to have a book checked out from a public library site than the general population of students. We are encouraged by these results and excited to see how this program progresses.

We are also working closely with the City’s Department of Small Business Services to locate a Workforce1 Expansion Center at our Francis Martin Library in the Bronx. This partnership expands upon the great job search and work readiness programs that the library offers, as well as a strong ongoing relationship with Workforce1, and makes a seamless connection to City workforce services.

Additionally, as part of the Library’s vision, we are working to increase the programs and services offered in our neighborhood libraries. Our goal is to have libraries bursting at the seams with programming and classes, from after school programs for children to more ESOL slots and technology training.   We know that this goal is achievable and I am committed to seeing it happen.

However, while these partnerships and programs are showing tremendous results, the savings created by our current service model, which have allowed us to continue to provide New Yorkers with comprehensive library service even with significantly less funding, has reached its breaking point. Our workforce has already been reduced by 435 active positions (part-time and full-time) since July 2008, an 18% reduction. And our average hours of service at all locations are currently 46.6, a 12% reduction from 52.7, which we reached early in FY09 with the six-day funding.

To accommodate the new proposed cut of $42.6 million, we estimate a reduction of 682 positions, 610 through layoffs. The Library’s average weekly service would be reduced to four days and we would have to consider the possibility of closing libraries. We would also have to cut the library book budget.

The greatest impact of these cuts would be felt by the most vulnerable groups served by the Library: children, seniors, immigrants, non-English speakers and, especially, those living below the poverty line. Specific impacts include:

  • 11.7 million or 42% fewer items will be circulated (3.6 million to teens and children);
  • 6.2 million or 35% fewer visits will be made to libraries (1.9 million fewer by children and young people);
  • 380,000 fewer visits to library programs by young people;
  • 1.6 million or 44% fewer computer sessions, and severely reduced access to seniors, who often use the library in the morning. Many of these morning hours will be cut; 
  • 14,200 fewer slots in career counseling sessions and job classes;
  • 1.4 million fewer visits and 2.3 million fewer materials circulated in our Lower Manhattan libraries, where 70% of families earn less than $50,000 per year and 47% of residents do not have a high school diploma or equivalent;
  • 990,000 fewer visits and 1.2 million fewer materials circulated in our Central Bronx libraries, where 72% of families earn less than $50,000 per year, nearly 40% of residents do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, and only 32% of residents are native English speakers;
  • 627,000 fewer visits, 1.3 million fewer items circulated, 2,300 fewer programs and 43,000 fewer visits by school age children to library programs in our Staten Island branches.

Libraries provide hope and opportunity. For the new immigrant and the economically disadvantaged, it’s often their only source of essential information and very often their last resort. As this body knows, libraries provide much more than just books on shelves. From our ESOL and Centers for Reading and Writing classes, after school programs and new programming initiatives, libraries serve as educational centers for all New Yorkers. The NYPL is working hard to find ways to do more with less. But we can’t do it alone.

In years past, Speaker Quinn and the City Council have championed funding of this City’s libraries. We are truly grateful for this support. We again seek your support in helping to ensure that New Yorker’s continue to access this invaluable and much needed resource.

Once again, thank you for this opportunity to testify. We remain available to answer any questions that you may have.