The cuts, proposed by the Bloomberg Administration, would close many Queens libraries for two or three days a week. The Central Library would be the only branch to remain open on Saturdays.
Library funding would revert to its lowest levels in over a decade, though library usage in the borough is at an all-time high,
The library system offers computer workshops, adult literacy and English language classes, job information sessions, and after-school homework help for 5,000 students weekly, among other popular programs.
Last week unionized librarians and elected officials demonstrated at the Central Library in Jamaica, chanting, “They say cutback, we say fight back.”
So far, 234 layoffs have been announced for the library system.
“The more we get the word out on what this means for libraries and what this means to communities that we serve, the better chance we have to save every single job,” said Tom Galante, Queens Library’s CEO.
Last year, the administration threatened to cut the Queens Library system by $17 million, but the money was eventually restored by the City Council.
At a rally in front of the Richmond Hill Library, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said the outcome this time around was far less certain.
“It’s more worrisome this year,” Crowley said, “because of a larger-than-expected $65 billion budget in tough economic times.”
John Hyslop, president of library workers Local 1321, said the cuts are not necessary. “They are spending poorly, taxing inappropriately and there’s billions of dollars that can be used now from the [city’s] rainy day fund,” he said.
Carolyn Moss, president of the 90-member Friends of the Richmond Hill Library, said reducing library hours would have a devastating impact on the neighborhood.
“The library is an important part of our community, a safe haven for our children, where adults research employment information by computer and the many social and cultural activities,” Moss said. “We’d be lost without the summer reading program for the kids.”