NYC libraries launch letter-writing campaign for increased funding

The city’s three public library systems say they officially launched a letter-writing campaign this week, urging the mayor and City Council to increase funding for libraries in Fiscal Year 2018.

The Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library are calling on members of the public to sign letters to elected officials asking for US$34 million in additional operating funding for increased hours, said the libraries in a statement.

The funding includes more branches to be open seven days a week and $150 million in capital funding “to address critical maintenance needs at branches.”

Letters can be signed at any of the city’s 217 library locations, or online at investinlibraries.org.

The libraries said renowned writer Malcolm Gladwell is supporting the initiative and encouraging the public to sign letters, penning an email that was sent to library patrons on Wednesday.

“As a kid, the highlight of my week was Wednesday evening, when my mom would drive me into town to the Public Library,” Gladwell wrote.

“The library was a magical place, that gave me — a kid from a tiny town — a window on the whole world. I’ve never lost that feeling. And I’ve never felt more strongly that every child deserves that same window on the world,” he added.

Gladwell said that only seven percent of New York City’s libraries are open seven days — “for some families, weekends are their only chance to visit a branch and expand their horizons” — and mentions branches in need of serious repairs.

“Libraries are a lifeline — not a luxury — for New Yorkers. I know I wouldn’t be a writer without learning to love reading at my local library as a child,” Gladwell said. “Let’s make sure other New York City kids get a chance to follow their dreams just like I did.”

The letter-writing effort is part of the multi-year “Invest in Libraries” campaign to fight for increased resources and ensure that New Yorkers have the libraries that they need and deserve, the libraries said.

Since the campaign launched three years ago, the libraries said it has generated strong support from authors and celebrities such as Junot Diaz, Judy Blume, Tom Wolfe, Robert Caro, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Kinney, as well as thousands of everyday New Yorkers, “resulting in City funding for six-day service and an initial capital budget commitment.

“However, at a time where more New Yorkers are turning to their libraries than ever before for services and support, many branches remain in serious need of critical maintenance funding for infrastructure updates and repairs,” the statement said.

“The fact is libraries are still receiving less operating money than in FY 2008 and the City’s initial capital funding commitment has already been earmarked for necessary projects,” it added.

Last year, more than 90,000 letters were sent to elected officials, the libraries said.

“We know that the mayor and City Council see each letter sent to them,” Gladwell wrote. “When the people of New York join together to say something is important, city leaders will listen.”

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