As part of an effort to urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to support a funding increase for New York City's public libraries, punk rocker and National Book Award winner Patti Smith penned a letter of support for NYPL, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library. In her activism, Smith joins Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney and The Unlikely Event author Judy Blume.
In 2008, New York City's budget allocated $378 million to its libraries, but the three systems took a heavy hit during the recession. Last year, things were looking up. Librarians and patrons saw $43 million restored to the city's library budget. It seemed as if the advocacy of the #InvestInLibraries movement had paid off.
However, Mayor de Blasio has proposed a new budget that would cut libraries' 2017 operating funds by $22 million. This will leave the three systems with $44 million less than they had in 2008.
New York City's three library systems had requested a combined $1.4 billion in capital funds to make much-needed upgrades over the next decade. De Blasio's proposal for 2016 allocated $300 million to that cause, and, while the libraries' presidents are grateful for that measure, they cannot deny that their institutions remain underfunded. From NYPL's statement on the proposed executive budget for 2017:
The people of New York City rely on their public libraries for crucial access to educational programs and services that strengthen communities and even the playing field for all. We thank Mayor de Blasio for an Executive Budget that continues last year’s important investment, but also call on him to follow the City Council's recommendation and adopt a final budget that restores operating funding to 2008 levels and addresses $100 million in critical maintenance needs, giving libraries the resources needed to meet the growing demand for services.
The #InvestInLibraries movement has tasked New Yorkers with writing one-sentence stories about how New York City's public libraries have impacted their lives. These stories are addressed to Mayor de Blasio and other City Council members, in an effort to persuade them to restore funding to NYPL, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library.
An excerpt from Smith's letter perfectly explains the importance of libraries:
My first great love was the book. Little Women, Peter Pan, A Child’s Garden of Verses. A voracious reader, my thirst for literature and need for a variety of reference books could only be appeased at my second home — the local library. And right now, our library needs us.
New York City readers can write their own letter to tell Mayor de Blasio to #InvestInLibraries.
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that New York City's public libraries would have $65 million dollars less in funding than in 2008. We regret the error.
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained a quote from Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson on the pending budget for 2016. We've updated the article to include more recent information about the final budget of 2016, which extends through June 30, 2016.