On Thursday, bibliophiles from across the city convened on the steps of City Hall to protest steep budget cuts to New York’s public library system. Sunnyside native and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee led the protest.
The city financial plan has proposed to cut nearly 100 million dollars in funds, which may leave over 1.7 million children without access to the library’s free homework help and school support system.
According to the Queen’s Library press release, the proposed 31 percent cut of the budget would cause 605 layoffs and permanent closings of 18 Queens libraries. Additionally, all libraries in the borough would have to stay closed on Sundays.
Letita “Tish” James, Brooklyn City Council member, made a passionate plea to Mayor Bloomberg to stop cutting library budgets. “Some cuts never heal,” James said. “We will fight you on this we will stand up to you Mr. Mayor, because we believe in strong communities and we believe in our libraries.”
Also protesting at City Hall were members of Urban Librarians Unite, an independent advocacy organization for libraries in New York City.
Christian Zabriskie, Queens resident, librarian and founder of the ULU explained how libraries are moving into the technological age and are not the out-of-touch relics some might believe.
“We use social media a lot and one of our big things is we try and weld “clicktivism” with practical boots-on-the-ground activism,” Zabriskie said.
“Libraries today are really at the cutting edge of community education. Traditionally, libraries have been very passive in their means of educating the public, we have the stuff and make it available to you but we don’t do anything about getting the information into your head. Now libraries have gotten much more engaged so there’s resume advice, entrepreneur classes, parenting classes, and more activities to keep the community engaged.”
The ULU is also staging a “24 Hour Read In” on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library from 4 p.m. June 9 to 4 p.m. June 10.
To get more information about the read-in and to read more about the New York Public Library protests planned, please visit www.SaveNYClibraries.org.
Photos by Aviva Woolf/Queens Beat