The Philadelphia Free Library isn’t alone in its battle for more funding.
The 54-branch system’s fight is just one of the bookworm battles across the country, as residents advocate for better-funded systems, especially in cities where vulnerable populations depend on public libraries.
The New York systems collectively operate 216 branches across the five boroughs, as well as four research library centers in Manhattan. Cuts could mean fewer librarians, fewer programs, and fewer hours for public use at libraries.
“We’ve made a record level of investments in the city’s libraries," a spokesperson for de Blasio told CBS New York, citing more than $1 billion for facility improvements in the capital budget over the next 10 years.
Efforts are already underway to express the importance of New York’s libraries, much of it begun by residents, including celebrities outraged to learn of the proposed cuts.
“As Carrie Bradshaw might, I couldn’t help but wonder: Can New York City survive without strong public libraries?” Sex in the City actor Sarah Jessica Parker wrote Monday in a guest post on the New York Public Library’s blog, referring to her character’s name in the show. “These cuts would be a big mistake that would leave countless New Yorkers without access to key services.”
The issue there parallels the Philadelphia Free Library’s struggles, where Friends and advocates have been entrenched in a grassroots campaign for additional library funding since last year to stanch facility emergencies and staff shortages that have led to daily closures.
Philadelphia library advocates have said that the Free Library system never recovered from budget cuts as a result of the 2008 recession, and that the library needs additional funding — about $15 million — to be fully functional.
The library’s budget is nearly $49 million, with about $40 million from the city. Mayor Jim Kenney in March proposed an additional $2.5 million for the system. Since the fall, supporters have circulated petitions, met with Council members, assessed branch needs, among other efforts.
Both Philadelphia and New York City Councils will make final budget decisions by June 30.
Library funding has been threatened on the national landscape, too. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump proposed major cuts for library budgets in his 2020 federal budget, reducing funding from $242 million in 2019 to $23 million and looking to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services.