Keep Your Library OPEN! Support the Brooklyn Public Library as it faces budget cuts. |


On May 6, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $62.9 billion budget that proposed severe budget cuts and layoffs to numerous city programs.  As City Hall and the lawmakers in Albany continue to blame one another for the city’s financial woes, many vital programs are still reeling from this announcement. One of these is the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), the fifth-largest library system in the nation, for which Mayor Bloomberg proposed a $20.6 million budget cut.

According to Steven Schechter, Director of Government and Community Affairs at BPL, the specter of budget cuts came at the worst possible time considering the record-breaking traffic that the system has experienced in the past year. In March, 2010, users checked out over 1.9 million books — the most ever in BPL history.

“More people are at our branches. More people are taking advantage of the free programs, the computers, and the Wi-Fi because we are offering free services that aren’t available anywhere else especially in this economy,” Schechter said.

If the mayor carries out the proposed budget, Schechter says that the Brooklyn library system would suffer in many ways. 16 of 58 neighborhood libraries would need to temporarily close until funding is restored — possibly one in every neighborhood of the borough. It’s not yet known which Bushwick-area libraries will be affected.

The branches left open will all face cuts to existing service including staff layoffs, hours reductions, and fewer free programs.

“Hundreds of thousands of people would not be able to take advantage of these free programs anymore,” said Schechter. “The budget cut would have a direct impact on service because at this point we’ve already cut everything that we can that’s not related to service.”

Since the mayor’s announcement, BPL has lead a major push in informing the general public of the budget cut’s possible effects as well as to drum up both political and financial support via the Brooklyn Public Library website. There, supporters can send messages to their City Council members and the mayor, and even donate money to keep services running and libraries open.

“They can either use a form letter that we have created; or, even better, we hope that everyone would take the time to write in their own words what the library means to them and why our library services are so important,” Schechter said.

BPL has received many corporate and individual donations in their $500,000 fund drive; in Bushwick, the DeKalb Branch on Bushwick Avenue was gifted $10,000 from Mike Reiss of Manhattan. Reiss, a writer for The Simpsons, wanted to make a difference in the neighborhood where his father was raised.

“I was very taken with the place, not only sentimentally, but because of its vibrant service to a multi-ethnic community,” said Reiss. “This is a branch that is used to capacity, and I wanted to make sure they could keep the books on the shelves.”

The DeKalb branch, a Neoclassical Carnegie library built in 1905, only recently reopened after major roof repairs.

There are also other ways to help the cause. Malika L. Granville, a BPL spokesperson, pointed out that $10 contributions to the “Support Our Shelves” program could be made via cell phone by texting the word “BOOKS” to 50555. “That would allow them to make a $10 donation on their phone bill,” Granville said.

On May 15, the Brooklyn Public Library will host “Love Your Library Day” at the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights, with a noon rally, book sale, and entertainment and activities. Donors at the event will be given souvenirs of appreciation from library staff.

“The more people that attend, the more attention that we get, the better our budget will be,” said Schechter. “We are going to be talking about what we do and thanking the staff that is working hard under trying conditions.”


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Comments ( 1 Comment )

RT @kojoopuni: Keep Your Library OPEN!

Kojo Opuni added these pithy words on May 14 10 at 4:14 pm

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