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More Than Just Books: How Public Library Budget Cuts are Harming New Yorkers

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. John's chapter.

In November 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams cut the public library budget by $24 million, forcing libraries to scale back on hours and services. Last month, Adams proposed further cuts of $58 million for 2025, which would reduce library services even more. Some may only think of libraries as a place to borrow books, but they offer much more than that. Libraries serve as a safe haven for countless New Yorkers, providing them with valuable resources and services, and these budget cuts threaten these opportunities. 

The first round of budget cuts resulted in the end of Sunday services at select branches across the city. Approval of the second budget cut proposal would mark the end of nearly a decade of six-day library service at all branches. New Yorker Garett Buhl Robinson shared his opinion with CBS News saying, “I think it’s a shame because a lot of people, the only days they can come are on the weekends, and this is an invaluable service.” The cuts in operating days will significantly impact those who rely on libraries’ wide range of resources, including access to free cooling centers during the summer months. Public libraries serve as a cool and safe space for people to escape the heat, especially those who cannot afford air conditioning at home. With fewer operating days, these valuable resources will become increasingly difficult to access. 

From after-school programs for kids to career workshops for adults, libraries offer various free services for all ages and demographics. Former New York City assemblymember, Yuh-Line Niou explained how libraries serve as one of the few places in the city where people can learn English for free. “In Chinatown, Flushing, Sunset Park, and any other places where there’s a lot of immigrants, a lot of the English language classes and the language access portals are there in libraries.” Last year’s budget cuts led to a hiring freeze and the reduction of several social programs and there’s no doubt that the new cuts will result in even fewer program offerings. 

In addition to all the services and resources that public libraries provide, many New Yorkers value these institutions simply for being free, indoor and public spaces. Nihou emphasized the importance of libraries saying, “Everywhere has a special place that you go to for community. For a lot of people in New York, it’s a library.” Months before the initial budget cuts last year, the New York Public Library system saw a surge in attendance. The system welcomed over 2.6 million visitors and had 195,897 new library card registrations from July to October 2023, compared to 2.4 million visitors and 142,933 new card registrations in the same four-month window in 2022. The demand for library services in New York City is strong, and these budget cuts will significantly impact all these institutions offer us New Yorkers. 

What can you do to support New York City public libraries?  

  1. If you don’t have a library card, now’s the time to sign up for one! Borrowing materials and attending free programs at your nearest library will show city officials that there is still an ongoing demand for library services. 
  2. Send an online letter to city officials urging them to reverse the proposed budget cuts.
  3. Post a note on the Invest in Libraries campaign website explaining why libraries are important to you.
Katera Dobson

St. John's '26

Katera is a sophomore at St. John’s University, born and raised in Queens, New York. She joined Her Campus in her freshman year and is currently the Senior Writer. When it comes to writing, she primarily focuses on the topics of film, theater and books. Outside of Her Campus, she can be found baking, reading, and going to the movies.