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Libraries Face Budget Cuts

The Schomburg Center’s Jean Blackwell Hutson Division, where patrons can access various materials related to Black history and culture, is dedicated to the late Blackwell Hutson, librarian and archivist.

By Shannon Williams

Libraries are influential in communities because patrons rely on them to aid in job searches, resume building, computer literacy, and programs catering to specific talents and interests. However, on September 9 Mayor Eric Adams announced that all city agencies must review their budgets and submit a plan that accounts for the 5% cut. Adams has proposed that libraries cut $10.3 million for the current fiscal year with more cuts to come. Libraries are already preparing for the effects of this crisis. As of November 26, branch libraries have eliminated Sunday service to accommodate cuts.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) was founded in 1895 by John Bigelow, but it was yet to be classified as an institution because it lacked the resources to provide for the community. In 1902, millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $5.2 million to the NYPL to create circulating branch libraries that were accessible for communities to read and access materials.

The NYPL has evolved and is now home to 92 locations, offering patrons a place to pass time, access computers, research and study. Libraries are constantly evolving and adapting to the changing times. In 1925, Arturo Alfonzo Schomburg founded the Schomburg Center. This research branch honed in on the Black experience, Black history and providing a safe place for the Black and ethnic community.

The Stacks of the Schomburg. A majority of book collections, are held here. The library contains more than 11 million preserved books and manuscripts pertaining to Black history and culture

How Are libraries Being Impacted?

What do the cuts mean for libraries? Maira Liriano, chief librarian and employee of the Schomburg for 10 and a half years, is concerned about what these cuts mean for the historical institution. “Most of the effect is coming down the road, the most immediate impact is the hiring freeze,” says Liriano. As a result of a hiring freeze, any vacant positions will not be filled, which could result in a backlog of work and more responsibilities assigned to current employees. “I am sensing the stress,” Liriano says. The Schomburg frequently holds events, celebrates new exhibitions and showcases the talents of artists. The cuts have staff worried that events and programming will be impacted. “I am concerned that these cuts will bring cuts to community events and programming with the lack of staffing and possible resources down the line,” said Donnalee Simon, a library technical assistant. Simon said these events strengthen the library’s relationship with its community.

“I anticipate that we will be buying less and cutting back on our databases, which will affect our patron’s research,” Liriano says. Patrons rely on libraries for their resources, whether that be research materials, computer access, or a quiet study space. But it’s deeper than that. Long-term patrons are able to form a connection with its employees, making that their home library.

Ashley Martinez has been frequenting the Schomburg for the past 10 years. “I started coming to the Schomburg for my own personal research and access to a computer, but I kept coming because the staff is personable, they check up on you, you can feel the effort they put into helping you.”

 

 

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