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Nearly Seventy Notable Authors, Writers, Scholars, Artists, and City Leaders Sign Letter in Full Page New York Times Ad Supporting Increased Funding for NYC’s Public Libraries

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Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, John Legend, James Patterson, Henry Garrido, Robert Caro and others ask the city to invest in libraries, vital resources that serve millions

JUNE 8 – Nearly seventy prominent leaders have signed a letter calling on New York City to reverse years of budget cuts and improve funding for its public libraries.

The letter – unveiled today in a full-page New York Times ad – is signed by a host of distinguished authors, scholars, city leaders, and artists, including Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Malcolm Gladwell, Jenny Holzer,John Legend, Tony Kushner, Oliver Sacks, Junot Diaz, Judy Blume, Robert Caro, E.L. Doctorow, Paul Auster, Henry Garrido,  David Levering Lewis, James Patterson, and many more. The ad is paid for with private funds by NYPL Board of Trustees Chair Evan Chesler and Vice Chair Abby Milstein.

“Libraries are the great equalizers,” the letter states in part. “They help their patrons learn new skills and ideas, find jobs, succeed in school, start businesses, connect to the Internet, improve their English, get the city’s new ID cards, prepare for citizenship, and much more. Yet over the past decade of economic challenges, despite surging attendance and circulation, the City has reduced support for libraries by nearly 20 percent.  The world’s capital of opportunity deserves better. Now is the time to restore $65 million in operating funding for libraries, and to invest $1.4 billion in capital funding over the next decade to repair and renovate our 217 neighborhood branches.”

The letter is the latest action by Invest in Libraries, a joint effort by the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library to secure improved funding for public libraries in the city’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

The libraries are requesting $65 million in additional, restored operating funding – cut since Fiscal Year 2008 – for citywide six day service and increased staff, materials, and hours. They are also asking for $1.4 billion over 10 years to repair and modernize all of their 217 branches.

To date, the library campaign – which can be found at investinlibraries.org – has:

  • Secured over 100,000 letters (in branches and online) from New Yorkers to elected officials asking for increased funding;
  • Held public rallies at two branches in each borough to call attention to the needs of libraries;
  • Released two reports – “Long Overdue” and “Restore $65 Million To NYC Libraries” – to highlight the libraries’ capital and operating budget needs;
  • Held two rallies on the steps of City Hall – one with union District Council 37, which represents librarians. DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido signed today’s letter;
  • Received support from the editorial boards of The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, any, The Staten Island Advance, and The New York Observer;

Mayor de Blasio’s executive budget does not include any additional operating funding for libraries as compared with Fiscal Year 2015 (in fact, a $10 million allocation from the City Council at Fiscal Year 2015 budget adoption is not included, so the proposed budget is currently $10 million less than the Fiscal Year 2015 budget). It does include a new allocation of  $300 million in capital funds over the next decade in the 10-year capital plan; the libraries hope to see that number increase at adoption to address more of the city’s $1.4 billion in library capital needs. 

Today, presidents of the three library systems are testifying at an executive budget hearing at City Hall to advocate for the increased funding.

Tomorrow, the libraries are supporting a 24-hour read-in organized and conducted by grassroots advocacy group Urban Librarians Unite. New Yorkers and library advocates will read relay-style in City Hall Park for 24 hours straight from 4 p.m. on June 9 until 4 p.m. on June 10 to call attention to the budget needs of the city’s public libraries.

The full text of today’s letter and a full list of signers is below:

Dear Mayor de Blasio, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, and City Council Members:

Libraries strengthen neighborhoods and help New Yorkers from every walk of life achieve their dreams, essential goals to which we know you are fully committed.

New York City’s libraries offer inspiring programs, welcoming staff, and safe spaces for people of all ages, as well as free access to technology and, of course, millions of books. Libraries are the great equalizers. They help their patrons learn new skills and ideas, find jobs, succeed in school, start businesses, connect to the Internet, improve their English, get the city’s new ID cards, prepare for citizenship, and much more.

Yet over the past decade of economic challenges, despite surging attendance and circulation, the City has reduced support for libraries by nearly 20%. As a result, library hours and collections have been reduced, nearly 1,000 staff members have been lost, and New Yorkers most in need have suffered. Additionally, a chronic lack of capital support from the City has created a maintenance crisis in the libraries we love.

The world’s capital of opportunity deserves better.

Now is the time to restore $65 million in operating funding for libraries, and to invest $1.4 billion in capital funding over the next decade to repair and renovate our 217 neighborhood branches. It’s time for New York City to Invest in Libraries.

Sincerely,

  • Kurt Andersen
  • Paul Auster
  • Jennifer Jones Austin
  • Rabbi Andy Bachman
  • Mikhail Baryshnikov
  • Judy Blume
  • Andy Borowitz
  • Phoebe Boyer
  • Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
  • David Byrne
  • Geoffrey Canada
  • Robert Caro
  • Graydon Carter
  • Vin Cipolla
  • Edwidge Danticat
  • Anna Deavere Smith
  • His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
  • Junot Díaz
  • E.L. Doctorow
  • Jennifer Egan
  • Hector Figueroa
  • Rev. Flake
  • Jonathan Franzen
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Henry Garrido
  • William Gibson
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Adam Gopnick
  • Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Vartan Gregorian
  • George Gresham
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Jenny Holzer
  • Siri Hustvedt
  • Sherrilyn Ifill
  • Walter Isaacson
  • Maira Kalman
  • Tony Kushner
  • Imam Khalid Latif
  • John Legend
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • David Levering Lewis
  • James McBride
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Toni Morrison
  • David Nasaw
  • Victor Navasky
  • James Patterson
  • Darryl Pinckney
  • Richard Price
  • Francine Prose
  • Ruth Reichl
  • Anthony Romero
  • Oliver Sacks
  • Stacy Schiff
  • Colm Tóibín
  • Javier Valdés
  • Reverend Michael A. Walrond, Jr.
  • Tom Wolfe
  • Jacqueline Woodson
  • Sheena Wright

 

Media Contacts:

New York Public Library 

Angela Montefinise | angelamontefinise@nypl.org

 

Brooklyn Public Library

Emma Woods | emma@berlinrosen.com

 

Queens Library

Joanne King | joanne.king@queenslibrary.org

 

About “Invest in Libraries”

The Invest in Libraries campaign is a partnership between the three library systems and library supporters across the City.   The campaign is calling for a $65 million restoration in operating expenses in this year’s budget, to provide the programs and services New Yorkers demand and expect from their local branches at least six days a week and $1.4 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance – a mere 1% of the City's ten-year Capital Plan. Over the past decade, City discretionary funding for public libraries has been slashed by nearly 20 percent, and library staff has been reduced by over one thousand workers.  Many branches across the City aren’t even able to stay open six days a week.  In fact, a recent data brief published by the Center for an Urban Future found that New York City’s public libraries are open fewer hours per week than libraries in every other large county in New York State except one.

 

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