The Center for an Urban Future reports that New York City’s public libraries have increased circulation by 59 percent and program attendance by 40 percent in the past decade. Computer sessions increased 62 percent in the past five years. Growth was highest in the Bronx, which showed a whopping 134 percent increase in program attendance and 102 percent increase in circulation. (The report covers all three systems in the city: Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public library, and New York Public Library, which provides service to the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island.)
Over the same decade, they’ve seen an eight percent cut in funding (adjusted for inflation) and are open fewer hours than libraries in Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Columbus, or even Detroit.
“The public libraries are hugely undervalued by city policymakers,” the report concludes, with the exception of Queens, where libraries have been a priority for local elected officials. Between 2003 and 2012, the Queens borough president spent $24.33 per person on libraries; the Bronx borough president spent $14.37 per person on libraries, and the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island borough presidents all spent less than $8 per person.
Other criticism in the report include that many branches remain subpar, libraries meet only a fraction of the demand for English as a Second Language (ESOL) and GED prep, and the amount raised for renovations and new construction varies drastically by borough. While Queens has $68.79 per person and all of NYPL, $62.41 per person, Brooklyn has just $40.50. (Staten Island, though part of the NYPL, has much less than Manhattan.)–Meredith Schwartz
More from Gary Price, editor of INFOdocket.com:
The new report comes from the Center for an Urban Future and is titled, Branches of Opportunities.
From the Report:
New York City’s public libraries are serving more people in more ways than ever before, and have become an increasingly critical part of the city’s human capital system; but they have been undervalued by policymakers and face growing threats in today’s digital age.
It’s likely reports for many other public libraries would come to a similar conclusion.
Direct to Full Text Report (52 pages; PDF)
Key Findings Infographic
Last March the Pew Charitable Trust released a report looking at the demands on public library systems Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Queens (NY), San Francisco and Seattle.