Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg's New Budget: Let's Close The Libraries! City's Priceless Institutions Face 29% Budget Cut!

Can someone please tell me why many government leaders at every level think that whenever there is a budget crisis on hand, that its time to cut library funding?

So, earlier this morning I was sipping my morning tea and reading one of the New York City local rags when I first read the article about how Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a $66 billion dollar revised budget plan yesterday (Friday).

According to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a possible mayoral contender, “library services will be cut by 29 percent, which means most branches would only be open three days a week.”

Are you kidding me?

Please say you are, because if library branches were to only be open three days a week in our nation’s biggest city with the largest population of children, we sure as heck are going to have a GIANT problem on our hands.

New York City with libraries closed four days a week? There are really no words that come to mind that can properly express the outrage and grave concern of this possibility. After all, we have a moral obligation to our children to keep our magical libraries open . . . just the way our parents helped build and sustain libraries that we all use today.

How big of a disaster is this going to be? The New York City has three independent public library systems. They are: The New York Public Library (which operates libraries in Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island), The Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queensborough Public Library. Each library system has a central library and many local branch libraries. In fact, there are hundreds of local branch libraries – and from experiences I have witnessed with my own eyes, these local branches are substantially utilized by their local patrons.

Did I mention that if Mayor Bloomberg’s budget cuts are approved that there is a good chance our New York City public libraries will only operate three days a week? Well, it appears that this may be true.

This possibility must not be put anywhere near the table.

Our libraries are off limits. It is foolish to remove the one institution in our great city that is the truest, clearest, and most symbolic beacon of hope for mankind to enhance our own existence: our libraries.

Several months ago, I petitioned for the beautiful city of Los Angeles to pass ‘Measure L’, and keep our city’s libraries open. Fortunately, the citizens of Los Angeles overwhelmingly passed ‘Measure L’, and by doing so, actually increased the library’s operating budget to the point where local city branches should in the near future operate seven days a week.

It is inconceivable that the great City of New York and its three central libraries with their hundreds of local branches will operate only three or even four days a week if the mayor’s planned budget is adopted. But that is the reality if Mayor Bloomberg cuts this critically important cultural and learning institutions budget by 29%.

Our libraries are as vital an institution to our great city of New York as any other institution. We must not cut our library’s budget. We must not reduce operation hours and days. And we must not give up on ourselves.

We must keep our libraries open! After all, a book is a free ticket to anywhere in the universe, and our libraries are realm transporters that can take us anywhere.

I know I will do my best to keep our New York City Libraries open. I hope you will, too.

I think I am going to take a walk to midtown, say hello to Leo and Astor, stick my head into the great Map Room, and then walk up the marble stairway before visiting the Great Reading Room at the New York City Central Library on 5th Avenue. But not before I walk by my local branch on Columbus Avenue.

Peter Thomas Senese is a best-selling author and self-professed Librophiliac. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.