Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
In a few weeks, you’ll be negotiating the NYC budget for 2012. I know you’ve got people from all over the city making the case for why various public service budgets need to be stabilized and restored rather than drastically cut, as originally proposed: the firefighters, the public school teachers, the NYPD, and last but not least, the Brooklyn, Queens and New York Public Library systems. I think the citizens of New York will suffer with drastic cuts to any one of these vital public services, let alone all of them. Today I am writing to tell you why you are doing a disservice to so many New Yorkers with the library cuts you’ve proposed in particular, and I’m appealing to your rationality and humanity in the hopes you will reconsider.
There are no two neighborhoods in New York that are alike. From Bay Ridge to Brownsville to Bushwick to Astoria to Rego Park to Flushing to Chelsea to Spanish Harlem to the South Bronx, every niche and nook and cranny of this city serves a unique population, and every one of them is vital to what makes New York – well, New York. If you can make it here, there is a place for you. (Making it here gets tougher and tougher, though.) The diversity of this city and of each special neighborhood highlights the reason every single branch of the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library systems matters, and why every single day, actually every single MOMENT we can afford to keep each branch open and fully staffed with library professionals is so incredibly important. If my neighborhood branch in Greenpoint closed, where else could its vast Polish-speaking population possibly access a comparable Polish-language print collection or Polish-speaking librarians to help them navigate online job applications? Where would the students of the six public schools in our neighborhood – at least two of which don’t even have school libraries – go after school for a safe place to do research, find books and graphic novels for pleasure reading, or even just hang out? How are underemployed or disenfranchised New Yorkers going to find work or assistance if there’s no longer free internet access in walking distance – or at least quick (ha!) public transit distance of their apartment?
Every single neighborhood library branch serves a unique population, and the professionals that work there specialize those libraries’ collections to best serve their communities to the best of their ability – and the city and state budgets certainly haven’t made it easy for them to do so. Year after year, you’re asking these librarians to do more with less – and these branches to do more with less actual librarians. When do we reach the point where we realize we can’t squeeze anything more out of the piggy bank, and our communities can’t possibly survive if anything more is taken away?
New Yorkers aren’t the only ones in danger, here. New York herself is in danger. She’s losing us. Every year that goes by that more and more is taken away and our cost of living continues to skyrocket and transportation becomes less and less viable, the more the dream of New York fades for the average American. Why should we stay? Why should others come?
You asked for a third term, and we gave it to you. What are you going to do with it? What will your legacy become?
If you are reading this and you are not Mayor Bloomberg, but you want to advocate on behalf of NYC or New York State libraries, the following websites offer information about the budget cuts, information about upcoming advocacy events, and easy-as-pie forms to help you write to City Council, Mayor Bloomberg or New York State officials to voice your concerns:
If you are a New York State resident in or out of NYC, you can learn more about ways to advocate from the New York Library Association.