New York City’s three public library systems — the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library — are seeking $1.4 billion in city funds over the next decade to bring all 217 public library branches up to modern building standards. Though library officials request capital money annually as part of the city’s annual budget process, that amount is the largest in recent memory and the request provides an unusually detailed accounting of the widespread problems facing buildings often treasured as community resources.
“The mayor and City Council know that millions of New Yorkers rely on the city’s public libraries, and that it is unacceptable for branches to be crumbling, hours to be limited, and the number of programs and services to be far short of demand,” said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, which has 92 branches in the Bronx and Manhattan and on Staten Island.
But the effort to modernize the city’s libraries has prompted one fiscal expert to question whether library officials, in taking stock of building conditions, should also be looking at whether they could, or should, downsize in some cases, given the move toward a digital age and e-books that take up no room at all.
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