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NYPL President Testifies on Proposed FY2011 Budget Cuts



The following are the prepared remarks of NYPL President Dr. Paul LeClerc
on the proposed FY 2011 budget, which calls for a $33M cut to the Library.
Click above for video.


March 16, 2010
Good morning, I am Paul LeClerc, 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 always great to be here at City Hall talking about libraries and the essential services that they offer. I am joined by David Offensend - Chief Operating Officer, 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 in the past and your continued support as we move forward during these difficult economic times. 
The proposed budget cut that the Library faces for Fiscal Year 2011 is staggering and comes after two consecutive years of cuts to our budget. In Fiscal Year 2009 we absorbed a 3% cut, or $4.3 million. At Fiscal Year 2010 adoption we endured a 4% cut, or $5.4 million. This means that prior to the proposed Fiscal Year 2011 cuts the Library had already been cut by $9.7 million or 7%. And, now, the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget calls for cuts of $33 million to The New York Public Library, which include a Fiscal Year 2010 mid-year reduction of $5.9 million and additional cuts. This will require drastic reductions in service to an already slimmed-down system that is nearly at its breaking point, at a time when libraries are serving more people, in more diverse kinds of ways, than we ever have before.
In this testimony, I would like to outline the devastating impact a cut of this magnitude would have on the essential services that the Library provides to our City. Over the last year, millions of New Yorkers have utilized our programs, collections, and services in record numbers. These proposed cuts will force the Library to make substantial reductions to staff, hours, programs, and collections, limiting the accessibility of this critical community resource.  
The NYPL continues to experience a system-wide surge in use:
  • In an average week, 350,000 people walk through the doors of The New York Public Library’s 90 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island (over 18 million visits per year):
    • Our visitors are of all ages, from all walks of life—toddlers to seniors, kindergarten to postgraduate students, employed and unemployed, newly arrived in the City and native New Yorkers. 
Last year alone:
  • There were 16 million visits to our branch libraries, 2.4 million visits to our research libraries, and 29 million visits to our website,
    • There were 40 million physical visits to public libraries throughout New York City. That’s more than all the culturals and all the NY sports teams combined. So no one should labor under the illusion that libraries aren’t highly relevant to New Yorkers or that libraries aren’t an essential public service in this City.
  • 21 million items were circulated and even more were consulted from among our collection of over 50 million books and other materials:
    • In the Bronx, libraries such as the Melrose, Mosholu, Westchester Square, Tremont, and City Island branches have experienced over 20% gains in circulation;
    • Similar numbers are occurring at other locations throughout the library system.
  • Our Science, Industry and Business Library, where our new job information center is located, has experienced a 61% (88,000-item) jump in circulation. It has also experienced a 23% (91,000-visit) jump in overall attendance.
  • 25,000 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 41,000 programs and classes were offered system-wide:
    • Attendance at programs for children and teens exceeded 550,000;
    • Hundreds of New Yorkers each month received assistance with retirement planning, tax preparation, voter registration, and starting a business.
  • Thousands of books were brought to nursing homes, senior centers, schools, and prisons.
  • Almost 25% of the NYPL’s patrons stated unequivocally that no alternatives exist for the library services they use.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2011 cuts would have a dramatic effect on library services:
In addition to last year’s budget cut the Library was asked to absorb a $5.9 million current-year cut. The mid-year cut:
  • Necessitated service reductions at two-thirds of the libraries across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island;  
  • Left the Library with little choice but to reduce service to an average of 45 open hours per week for our neighborhood sites, down from an average of over 51 hours;
  • Resulted in Sunday closure at five of nine sites, leaving only one circulating library open on Sundays in each borough.
The FY 2011 Preliminary Budget calls for cuts of an additional $33 million to The New York Public Library:
  • These cuts would necessitate the elimination of 650 full-time equivalent positions;
  • Public service hours would be decimated, brought down to an average of three or four days per week, down from our current six- to seven-day service; 
  • The impact of a cut of this magnitude would be tremendous: 
    • 5 million fewer items circulated (1.7 million to teens and children);
    • 6 million fewer visits made to libraries (1 million fewer by children and young people);
    • 400,000 fewer visits to library programs by young people;
    • 1.5 million fewer computer sessions, and severly reduced access for seniors, who often use the library in the morning. Many of these morning hours will be cut;
    • 1.2 million fewer visits and 1 million fewer materials circulated in our Lower Manhattan libraries, where 72% of families earn less than $50,000 per year and 45% of residents do not have a high school diploma or equivalent;
    • 800,000 fewer visits and 450,000 fewer materials circulated in our Central Bronx libraries, where 82% of families earn less than $50,000 per year, nearly 50% of residents do no have a high school diploma or equivalent, and only 33% of residents are native English speakers;
    • 550,000 fewer visits, 500,000 fewer items circulated, 1,200 fewer programs, and 30,000 fewer visits by school-age children to library programs in our Staten Island branches.
Libraries provide hope to the economically disadvantaged, inspiration to the new immigrant, and a safe and nurturing space for those in need. But, most importantly, libraries provide answers to those in search of knowledge and discovery.
Libraries are more important than ever. Just look at the 18 million times people walked through the NYPL’s doors last year or the over 29 million visits to our website. While the impact of the recession continues to take its toll across our city, we have seen no slow-down in the record numbers of people using our services.  Millions of New Yorkers continue to use our rich collections, interesting programming, computer training, literacy classes, ESOL programs, homework help, job-search and small business resources. These are the services that will help put people back to work and help the city climb out of the recession.  
In years past, Speaker Quinn and the City Council have championed funding of this City’s libraries, recognizing how essential the services are that libraries provide to New Yorkers. We are truly grateful for this support. The FY 2011 proposed cut of $33 million would cripple the NYPL’s ability to deliver the services that the people of this City are demanding in record numbers. This would essentially wipe out decades of progress made by our library system. We again seek your support in helping to ensure that libraries keep their doors open so that New Yorkers may 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.
Contact: Public Relations Office 212.592.7700