Brooklyn Boro

Letitia James calls on City Council to restore library funding

June 22, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Public Advocate Letitia James. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

Public Advocate Letitia James, a former Brooklyn councilperson, last week sent a letter to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, calling on the City Council to increase funding for New York City’s three public library systems – the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library and the Queens Public Library.

The mayor’s Fiscal Year 2016 Executive Budget for public library operating expenses has decreased by $10 million since last year, despite an increased need for funding. James is urging the City Council to restore the funding level of the city’s public libraries to $65 million.

James believes additional funding is necessary to keep library branches open at least six days a week and to expand hours to better serve working families.

“Libraries disproportionately serve the poorest and neediest in our communities, as those individuals seek to uplift themselves,” James wrote in her letter. “The investments we make in libraries today will pay dividends now and in the future. We cannot truly have equality in our metropolis without an equality of intellectual resources and access.

“Libraries disproportionately serve the poorest and neediest in our communities, as those individuals seek to uplift themselves … I have witnessed first-hand the look of a child’s face when they are read to at the library from books that stir their imagination and spark an interest to explore subjects and achieve goals that they never knew possible,” she continued.

“I witnessed children tutored in math and others borrowing books on college entrance exams. Immigrants who will go on to be incredible successes in their new homeland, often start that pathway by learning English at their local branch or reading books in their native languages,” she added.

She ended her letter with an implied plea not to let the library system be overshadowed by gentrification. “While our neighborhoods fill with new high rises and retail locations, we cannot forget the places where everyone is welcome; places where one does not need to pay a membership fee or have significant wealth to benefit,” she wrote.

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