A June 17 agreement between Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the City Council spared the New York Public Library from what would have been a $37 million budget cut—the worst in its history. But New Yorkers will notice a decline in services. At press time, the library was still working out exactly what the impact of these cuts would be.
“Currently, branch libraries are open an average of six days per week. Their hours will be cut back to five days per week,” said Angela Montefinise, a public relations manager for the library, said June 28. “We will need to work through the weekend to determine how it will affect things like programming.”
If the full cuts had gone through, the library—which serves Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx—would have lost 40 percent of its workforce and up to 10 branch libraries.
Even before the cuts were proposed, a hiring freeze had been imposed, meaning that some staff had been lost through attrition. At a Community Board 7 meeting June 17, Petra Kolokotronis, library manager at the Riverside branch, on Amsterdam Avenue and West 65th Street, said the library now opens later on most weekdays than it used to. Her hours have also been scaled back. She added that the current cuts arrived on the heels of two recent $5 million cutbacks and restructurings. As a result, the Bloomingdale and Morningside libraries have reduced hours.
“It does have an impact. We feel it,” she said.
Council Member Gale Brewer described the proposed staff reductions as upsetting.
“If you have fewer after-school programs open due to budget cuts, more young people will go to the library because there is no after school,” she said. “Seniors love the libraries but there are fewer programs for seniors. Where will they go?”
In response to the proposed cuts, Friends of the New York Public Library has organized a letter writing campaign and collected close to 100,000 letters.
At the Board 7 meeting, board members pointed out that even during the Great Depression, the library kept its doors open.
“In a down economy, people use branch libraries more for job-seeking resources as well as improving their skills,” said Mark Diller, chair of Board 7’s youth, education and libraries committee.
“Also they can’t afford to buy books,” added Susan Singer, a library manager at the Bloomingdale branch.
In a statement, Montefinise wrote that the library is thankful for avoiding the worst-case scenario of closing libraries or dropping service to as low as three days a week.
“We echo what the mayor said last night,” she wrote. “Times are tough and the cuts will hurt.”