(Via Carolyn McIntyre of Citizens Defending Libraries & the associated petition Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction)
Mayor Bloomberg refuses to adequately fund our public libraries unless they sell off assets including crown jewels of the system, a plan that is wrong-headed and counterproductive.
We are in a period of steadily increasing use of libraries by all sectors of New York’s population, attendance is up 40% and circulations are up 59%, while the amount required to properly fund libraries is a pittance compared to other city expenditures.
Public libraries enrich their communities and are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as a buffer against economic downturn. They provide a safe haven for seniors during the day, teens after school, for parents with young children, for job seekers needing computers, for the growing number of freelance professionals, and for those needing literacy and technical skills.
Bloomberg’s plan would eliminate irreplaceable and historic crown jewels, such as the research stacks underneath the main 42nd Street library, and demolish Brooklyn Heights Art Deco style building, housing 62,000 square feet of library space replacing it with only 15,000 square feet of space in a developer’s high rise. The removal of the Brooklyn Business Library from Brooklyn’s central business district in downtown Brooklyn, the hub of commerce, transportation, and next to universities is a travesty. These are just two examples of a scheme to shrink New York’s public library system, eliminating resources that communities depend on.
We need to immediately halt real estate deals that involve selling any more branches to private developers until the libraries have been properly funded and until the needs of the public’s library system are the first priority.
Libraries should not be hostages for development. The city should cease the practices of bribing the public into approving bigger and denser development and pressuring communities into accepting libraries housed in smaller spaces with fewer services.
Developer-driven partnerships that put developers in the driver’s seat and render competitive bids meaningless are bad public policy that must be avoided. The practice of using developers who specialize in insider deals, who treat the communities poorly and have a record of failing to deliver promised benefit violates the public trust.
There should be no elimination or sale of irreplaceable assets such as the crown jewel research stacks under the 42nd Street main library or elimination of the Business and Career Center Library on the border of Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn.
There should be no premature library closings such as Donnell library, closed in 2008 and still awaiting a replacement. Any library closing should have a binding contract for its prompt replacement with solid assurances, including full up-front payments and financing in place.
There should be no mass sell-offs of libraries. Sales of library properties, if any, should be sequenced so that multiple libraries are not closed at the same time and only when it is in the best interest of the public’s library system.
“The knowledge of different literature frees one from the tyranny of a few”
-Jose Marti Plaque on 41St Library Walk
New York’s libraries, the lifeblood of a democracy, have contributed to making our city economically vital and a cultural powerhouse. We must not sacrifice it to shortsighted planning and the interests of powerful developers. We demand protection for public libraries, the city’s trusted place to learn, grow, be inspired, and connect with great minds.
• New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
• Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
• Noticing New York: New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, by Michael D. D. White, January 31, 2013.
• Center For An Urban Future: Report – Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013
If you have not yet, please sign a petition to Stephen Levin, City Council Member, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Trustees of New York Public Library, Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library, and Trustees of Queens Public Library, which says:
“We demand that Mayor Bloomberg stop defunding New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth. Shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for the wealthy at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity is not only unjust, it is a shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.”
Simply click here to add your name:
Those protesting the sale and development of North London’s Friern Barnet library and its surrounding green space have the following message for the council:
“Library campaign groups working with the Occupy movement and the local community share a common aim: that Friern Barnet library should be re-opened in the existing building by Barnet council and preserved as a fully funded library and community space with the direct involvement of local people in the decision making process. The occupation of the building is a direct action that has highlighted the massive community support for Friern Barnet library, and has challenged not only its closure but the entire One Barnet programme and the privatisation of our public services in general.” Article here:
California state legislators are looking at legislation (AB 438) that will give communities a voice on whether or not their public libraries will be privatized. California folks: please support this legislation!
Last month, a critical bill (AB 438) was introduced in California that would require public involvement and transparency before a public library could become privatized. This bill could die this Friday, June 3 and will put more public libraries at risk but you can help save it. Add your voice to the fight by signing the petition.
Only library patrons should profit from libraries but some local governments are turning to privatization as a quick fix when budgets become tight. Please support your local public library and speak out against privatizing them.
The word ‘public’ has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. I say put the word in capitals!
On the Commons highlights the dangers of taking the public out of public libraries. Read the full article here.
Facing budget shortfalls, many cities are considering privatizing valuable pieces of their infrastructure or outsourcing services to private contractors. These deals are meant to reduce municipal costs, however, privatization is a bad deal, for city governments, for the public they’re meant to serve, and for labor standards.
Nationwide, city councils are making decisions about privatizing their public libraries. Often this happens behind closed doors, with very little community input and without a full understanding of how library services could be affected. In Southern California, public libraries in Camarillo, Santa Clarita and Ventura have all been targeted for a takeover by Library Systems and Services (LSSI), a private company headquartered in Maryland and majority-owned by Islington Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Boston that has about $35 million in annual revenue and 800 employees, according to the New York Times.
Privatizing public libraries means libraries will be de-professionalized (typically, libraries require that librarians hold an M.L.S. degree, but L.S.S.I. does not require its librarians to have certification or training. It’s no wonder that L.S.S.I. is able to save on librarian salaries when they’re hiring people who are not, actually, librarians). Patrons will pay more and receive less (a reduction of the public library to a commodity and patrons to customers) while LSSI makes a profit for its investors and shareholders. What may be worst of all about these deals, however, is the erosion of the vital connection between government and the citizens that government is meant to serve.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Southern California Public Service Workers (SEIU 721) are partnering with community residents, local organizations and librarians that believe only patrons should profit from public libraries and to help keep public library services public. It’s happening in Santa Clarita, but it can happen anywhere. And that’s why we need to stop it.
Help stop the beast! Send a message to the Santa Clarita City Council to reject the privatization of their libraries.