Concerns rise as libraries prepare for further budget cuts
In November, the mayor announced each city agency would be forced to cut 5% of their budgets. This led to a wide array of changes from fire departments reducing staff to the public library closing on Sundays. Now, librarians are sounding the alarm that Saturdays could be next on the chopping block,.
Lauren Comito, a longtime city librarian and organizer with Urban Librarians Unite, says the pandemic showed us what happens when libraries are closed, particularly in low-income communities. A survey from New America found 15% of adults lost their main source of internet access when libraries shut down during the pandemic.
‘We say we have a problem with reading scores but we’re going to cut library funding,” said Comito. “What happens is the more you cut, the less people use it, the more people think you can cut. It’s not that they're not using it because they don't want it.”
Mayor Adams has blamed the budget cuts largely on the migrant crisis, and he has continued to call on the federal government for financial assistance to aid city agencies in housing these migrants. However, some city officials cite City Hall overspending as the main culprit for these cuts.
“There are a lot of problems in our city that could be addressed by investing in libraries. The asylum seeker issue is one of them,” said NYC Comptroller Brad Lander.
Comito says that Urban Librarians Unite is gearing up for several years of budget battles, and that a small investment now could provide a long-term fix for some community issues in the city.
A City Hall spokesperson told News 12, in part, “The Adams administration recognizes the critical role libraries play in our communities”, but that the city still faces a $7 billion budget gap.