Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Support and Sign-On Letter: Full and Adequate Library Funding, A Growing System, Transparency, Books and Librarians

To: Mayor de Blasio, and all responsible elected officials, including but not limited to the New York City Council and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the NYC Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents, NYS Attorney General, State Senators, and State Assembly Members.

Libraries need to be fully and adequately funded. They are a basic city service, creating opportunity, underpinning democracy, and available to all New Yorkers.  The cost of funding libraries is a small fraction of the city's budget, an exceptional bargain, given the economic, social and other benefits libraries deliver.

The Center For an Urban Future reports that "More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined."  Walter Cronkite observed: "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." Isaac Asimov said: "When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."
   1.    Mayor de Blasio’s first budget established a baseline, halting the Bloomberg administration policy of annually repeated cuts. We welcome the new policy, with the stipulation that the funding must, in the end, be sufficient to cover the real operating costs and urgent capital needs for preservation and maintenance of the library system's infrastructure.

    2.    The Bloomberg administration's defunding of city libraries came at a time of increasing public use and population growth-and also at a time of increasing wealth.  Nevertheless, the defunding continued, providing a pretext for staff reductions, selling library buildings, and shrinking library space.  We call for a different dynamic: the library system should grow with the growing city.

    3.    Transactions like the sale of the Donnell Library, the proposed sales of branch libraries in Brooklyn and the now abandoned Central Library Plan must be subject to a much higher level of public scrutiny, one they have not yet received. A lack of transparency, and consequent lack of oversight by the public and its officials, gives rise to unanswered questions about the large salaries many library administration officials receive and the roles that they perform when they receive them.  It also gives rise to many deeply troubling uncertainties about proper, equitable and effective use and allocation and distribution of funds.  Selling and shrinking libraries can be astoundingly and unjustifiably costly in many ways, without providing any real public benefit.

    4.    Library books must be returned to the libraries from which they have been removed, both branch libraries and research libraries. While electronic resources should be provided, that must be in addition to books, not to replace them. Books are the core asset of libraries; readers and scholars demand them, and acquisition of a reasonable number of new books should be funded.
Sale and shrinkage of libraries does not occur in a vacuum. Stewardship of public assets, public commons, and shared spaces has been declining in today's world, where we see the effects of wealth and political inequality everywhere.  Selling and shrinking libraries, not protecting our public assets and putting their resources out of reach leads to a vicious cycle of decreased democracy and opportunity, leading to more wealth and political inequality.

For these reasons, we the undersigned support and demand the proper funding of New York City's libraries.

Citizens Defending Libraries
The Committee To Save The New York Public Library
Library Lovers League
Citizens Action of New York
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Brooklyn- Weaving The Fabric of Diversity Committee
Lynn's Kids International
Brooklyn For Peace
The Cobble Hill Association
The DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance
Boerum Hill Association
Park Slope Civic Association (see CDL's letter to Landmarks supporting designation of Pacific Branch)
Park Defense Fund
Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform
Park Slope Greens
  Candidates and Electeds
Zephyr Teachout- Candidate for Governor of New York State (Democrat)
Howie Hawkins- Candidate for Governor of New York State (Green Party)
Brian Jones- Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York State (Green Party)
Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., District Attorney for Richmond County- Candidate for 11th New York 's Congressional District (Republican)
Vincent J. Gentile, City Council Chair of Committee on Oversight and Investigations, and former Chair of Council’s Library Committee- Candidate for 11th New York 's Congressional District (Democrat)
James Lane, Candidate for 11th New York 's Congressional District (Green Party)
Doug Biviano-  Candidate for 52nd NYS Assembly District (Democrat)
Pete Sikora-  Candidate for 52nd NYS Assembly District (Democrat)
Jo Anne Simon-  Candidate for 52nd NYS Assembly District (Democrat)
Jamie Kemmerer-  Candidate for 22nd NYS Senate District (Democrat)
Rubain Dorancy-  Candidate for 20th NYS Senate District (Democrat)
Jesse Hamilton-  Candidate for 20th NYS Senate District (Democrat)
Yungman Lee- Candidate for 7th US Congressional District (Democrat)
(To add your name or the name of your organization please contact Citizens Defending Libraries- 718 -area code- 797-5207 or MDDWhite -at- AOL -dot- com.  If you are an individual and want to immediately indicate your individual support for this cause you can sign Citizens Defending Libraries newest petition in which case you can get emails updating you when additional groups join in signing the letter above.)

In addition to the above signatures, see the following related items: 
Resolution unanimously adopted by the Park Slope Civic Council on March 7, 2013 respecting Pacific Branch Library Targeted for Sale By BPL
July 24, 2014 Vote of Community Board 6 Land Use Committee Against Spaceworks Plan to Shrink Red Hook Library   

Resolution Unanimously Adopted (36-0-0) November 12, 2014 by Brooklyn Community Board 6 Respecting Protection of the Brooklyn Libraries, Pacific and Carroll Gardens branch as landmarks and for BPL to reform and improve community engagement.

Resolution Adopted October 15, 2014 By Parks, Recreation and Cultural Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 Respecting Protection of the Brooklyn Libraries ins response to presentation by Brooklyn Public Library to the Committee.

Resolution Respecting Neighborhood Libraries adopted by Independent Neighborhood Democrats on June 20, 2013

Resolution Respecting the Brooklyn Heights Library Adopted by the Independent Neighborhood Democrats Executive Board


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  2. We're the only campaign that talks about this issue on our website (on home page and many press releases) and in great detail: