Why Love Libraries?

(Graphic by M. Bialaszewski)

(Graphic by M. Bialaszewski)

Despite its budding beauty, longer hours of sunshine, and the promise of sweet, sweet outdoor drinking, Spring is a tough season for NYC librarians because every single year around this time, we face massive budget cuts that threaten to close our doors, cut our hours, lay off our staff, and kill our souls piece by piece. If you’d like more information, you can read the testimony of library heads from March about the proposed cuts here.

But Rita, you might be asking, doesn’t the mayor WANT to fully fund the city’s three library systems? Don’t millions of kids, teens, and adults use them each year? Aren’t library branches across the boroughs full to the brim every day, and don’t some residents demand even MORE open hours? In fact, isn’t there this whole new report on how libraries are more relevant and utilized in NYC with each passing year? Why yes, yes there is such a report! And you can read it here. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I can’t answer the question of why some of the “powers that be” feel that it’s right to cut libraries in a time when they are needed most. Perhaps it’s a political game of chicken. Perhaps there are other things at play behind the scenes that my tiny librarian brain can’t even comprehend. All I know is that as long as the cuts are on the table, we are going to fight them. (And the library systems do have the support of many great Councilmembers, like Gentile and Van Bramer, just to name two – plus great advocacy groups like ULU.) So it’s not a battle that we’re fighting completely alone. But still, we must fight.

Last week was “National Library Week.” What better time than now to show libraries some love? In a previous post, I outlined ways that you (yes, you!) can help support your local library. (And NYC people, stay tuned in the coming months – there will be more opportunities for advocacy if you’d like to help out in any way.) I will try not to step over the line into library advocacy overkill here on Book Riot, I promise. But right now I still want to hear from YOU. Why do you love your library? How do you use it NOW, in these modern times? Why shouldn’t library funding be cut?

Here are a few responses I’ve already received when I posed these questions on various social media sites:

From Twitter:

Erin ‏(@LibrarianE13)
” I used to work at NYPL – amazing system – even more amazing collections! and MORE amazing programming! So yeah, keep ’em alive! PLEASE! The computers were SUCH a great resource for the HTR patrons! & providing a warm place on a cold day speaks volumes, IMHO.”

Pusta‏ (@pusta)
“Not a NY Resident anymore, but I found my father’s immigration papers in NYC Library, family history means a lot.”

Booklyn Art (@BooklynArt) Brooklyn, NY
“NYC libraries have been great supporters of artist books and Booklyn. We’ve done some great programs together, also.”

Katherine Harrison (@KidlitKat) Brooklyn NY
“The library is as essential to NYC as the subway or skyline. It’s where ideas germinate & dialogue sprouts. #savenyclibraries”

Comments from my blog:

RunDMD:

“While I am not a NYC resident, I can speak to the general need of libraries in this country. Libraries are, in my humble opinion, a critical service to people, much as police, firefighters, and EMTs are. While libraries cannot chase criminals, extinguish fires, or perform CPR, libraries can teach us law, fire safety and training, and medical techniques. Better still, libraries offer hope, something in short supply and high demand in America. How many leaders began as a small child wandering the wonderful labyrinth of his or her local library? How incredible was that sense of mystery? How many things were possible in those hallowed halls? How many future leaders currently live in homes without the means to afford books and media? Where will these future leaders go if libraries’ budgets are slashed, taking away both the facilities and the employees who want nothing more than to share the love of reading with people? Libraries are, indeed, necessary.”

Shelsie17:

“In the testimony you refer to in your blog (from the three library system directors/presidents, there are many successful programs/projects the library has instituted for all ages that has been successful for the people in their communities. With the highly diminished budget, these programs would disappear or be shadows of their former selves. I think mentioning these types of programs to the City Council and having the Council tell the mayor this could be a big help.”

Robin:

“I LOVE my branch library at Tompkins Square Park. The librarians there are so cheerful and willing to help, the collection is diverse and chosen with TSP-area residents in mind, and the computers are always being used by people who need them for tasks like filling out job applications and looking up tax information. As for me, I visit my branch to pick up books for weekend reading, meet other East Village folks, and as a place to work and get inspiration. I only wish that it was open more hours during the week — it’s really a treasure. If its hours were to get cut again or, God forbid, it shut down, the city would have me and a lot of other East Village residents to answer to. We love it and some of us depend on it!”

Laura K. Curtis:

“Libraries are so important, especially in lower income areas–of which NYC has plenty! When we contemplate cutting budgets for libraries, it’s as if we are contemplating eliminating school time for students, computer time for folks applying for jobs, adult education centers, community meeting places…the library is so much more than a book repository, though that is, of course, a prime purpose still. For myself, I use the library as a meeting place, a working place, a place of quiet away from the craziness out in the world where I can do my own work with resources I could not get elsewhere.”

And via email:

Brian Hedden (@BayRidgeOdyssey) Brooklyn, NY

“I practically lived in the Fairfield, CT library back when I lived in Bridgeport – it was open 9am to 9pm five days a week, and it had generous Saturday/Sunday hours. If NYC libraries were open like that, I would use NYC libraries as often as I used the Fairfield library. But to take the current hours/staffing, and slash away even more? I have to think even more people will stop using libraries. People like my son, perhaps? He goes to the library once or twice a week after school. He has a book on Susan B. Anthony checked out right now. Should it be the aim of the Bloomberg Administration to make it more difficult for schoolchildren to get books on Susan B. Anthony?”

Won’t someone PLEASE think of Susan B. Anthony?

If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for your time and for supporting libraries. If you don’t have time to comment about why you love your library, I just ask that you NYCers keep us in the back of your mind for when we really get down to the fight and remember the ways in which you can help. And even if you don’t live in NYC, I know that your library could use a little love as well.

And now, I’m off to daydream about outdoor drinking…

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