Effective December 3rd, the New York Public Library will cease Sunday operations due to citywide budget reductions.
As part of the 5% citywide budget cuts announced earlier this month, operations will be curtailed at eight New York City library branches.
This decision affects the Bronx Library Center, Grand Concourse Library, Parkchester Library, Jefferson Market Library, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Washington Heights Library, and Todt Hill-Westerleigh Library.
Consequently, storytime sessions scheduled at these branches on Sundays will be discontinued.
Starting December 17th, only one library in the city, located in Kew Gardens, Queens, will remain open on Sundays.
In a statement, library leaders said, “We must eliminate seven-day service across the city, including ending Sunday service at the vast majority of branches that currently offer it.”
The budget constraints are poised to affect more than just the operational days. They threaten the libraries’ capacity to acquire new materials, organize fresh programs, and maintain existing facilities.
Mayor Eric Adams has cited the escalating costs associated with the migrant crisis as a key factor driving these budgetary decisions.
In response to the citywide budget cuts, community leaders and elected officials organized a protest in front of City Hall on November 17th. They criticized the administration’s broad approach to budget reduction, arguing for more nuanced and considered financial strategies.
Rachel Finston, a librarian, voiced her concerns on social media, emphasizing the broader implications of the cutbacks. “This won’t just create inaccessibility, it will also slow down everything,” Finston stated.
She also noted the disproportionate burden this puts on public librarians.
Finston added, “Librarians, particularly public librarians, will bear the brunt of this. This screws over some of our best public servants.”
Over the last year, libraries throughout the United States have encountered a series of challenges unlike any before. This includes a surge in book bans, unlawful dismissals, targeted defamation efforts by conservative groups, police probes into LGBTQ-themed books, financial cutbacks, and incidents of far-right aggression.
A 2019 survey conducted by Change Research revealed that 95% of New Yorkers acknowledge libraries’ crucial and positive role in the city, particularly in supporting vulnerable communities.
The poll suggests that any reduction in library services would have tangible, adverse effects on these groups. The proposed cuts, especially the reduced weekend hours, are believed to severely impact access to books, the internet, and essential out-of-school programs for children and teens.
The cuts may also disproportionately affect the unhoused population, who depend on libraries for essential services.
Shams DaBaron, an activist who has worked with the mayor on housing initiatives, shared with City Limits how vital libraries are, especially for the homeless, highlighting that they use libraries for computer and financial literacy classes.