New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on June 22 an early agreement for the FY16 budget, which includes an additional $39 million for the city’s three library systems across all five boroughs. The funding will enable universal six-day service throughout the 217 branches across the city’s three systems—the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), New York Public Library (NYPL), and Queens Library (QL)—as well as extended hours at many locations, and will translate in to approximately 500 new jobs. In addition, the de Blasio administration has committed to a $300 million ten-year capital budget for libraries.
(Editor’s Note: Virginia’s attorney general announced June 20 that Sweet Briar College will remain open for the 2015–16 academic year. The alumnae group Saving Sweet Briar has pledged to raise $12 million toward operating costs, and the college will release restrictions on $16 million in endowments. At least 13 members of the current board of 23 will be replaced by trustees, and the board will then appoint a new president. See the Chronicle of Higher Education for more details about the agreement.)
Facing a $1 million shortfall while planning the FY16 budget, the city council of St. Helena, CA, made several swift decisions. One of the most controversial was letting go of St. Helena Public Library (SHPL) director Jennifer Baker, who was released without cause on June 8. Although Baker, SHPL’s director since 2007, had submitted a proposal for a series of cuts to meet a proposed $300,000 library budget reduction that had met with approval in a meeting of the library board earlier the same day, city manager Jennifer Phillips moved to terminate Baker instead.
The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) and BiblioTech, the all-digital library operated by Bexar County and also located in San Antonio, have reached an agreement that will let the county reduce its payments to the city by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, instead reinvesting that cash in digital content that will be accessible to users of both library systems. The compromise marks the resolution of a funding fight that stretches back to last year, when city officials complained that the county was not footing its fair share of the bill for library services.
The legislative budget season triggers a tense cycle for libraries, and this year is no different. State library funding comes under attack, and library advocates mount a defense. Where wisdom prevails, the lines are upheld or even increased, bolstering the key infrastructure libraries bring to our communities. Where short-term thinking trumps strategic insight, the lines get trimmed and trimmed, gaining a relatively minor lift to the state’s bottom line while putting at risk small but significant programs that interconnect our valuable public library resources—and serve as a critical conduit for federal funds to reinforce service.
Only days after a definitive victory at the polls, the New Orleans library landscape was making news again—but this time it was the Foundation, not the library itself, and the news was not good. On May 5, an investigative report by correspondent David Hammer for local New Orleans station WWL-TV revealed that between 2012 and 2013 Irvin Mayfield and Ronald Markham, who then served on the board of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) Foundation as chair and president, respectively, gave the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) at least $863,000 in funding originally made to the NOPL Foundation. At that time both Mayfield and Markham were also drawing annual salaries of $100,000 apiece from the nonprofit NOJO, Mayfield as its founder and artistic director and Markham as president and CEO.
New Yorkers turned out in force at City Hall on May 15 for a lunchtime rally and press conference protesting the deep cuts to library funding outlined in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s FY16 Executive Budget. The proposed budget, released May 7, allocated $313 million for the city’s public libraries—down a full $10 million from FY15, and $65 million less than 2008. A full budget restoration to pre-recession levels would allow libraries across New York City’s three systems to provide core programs and services, and keep neighborhood branches open six days a week, advocates argued. Libraries are also requesting $1.4 billion in capital funding over the next ten years in order to make documented infrastructure repairs.
New Orleans voters went to the polls on May 2 and showed their love for their library system, approving a raise in property taxes that will add up to $8.2 million a year for the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL). A whopping 75 percent of voters approved—a margin of more than 9,000 votes. Starting in January 2016, the 25-year, 2.5-mill property tax increase will allow some branches to extend operating hours to seven days a week, and will help rebuild the 7th Ward’s Nora Navra Library, damaged in Hurricane Katrina.
CT-VTlogoOther than the proximity of the two New England states, the library systems of Connecticut and Vermont don’t have much in common. They don’t share similar funding arrangements or infrastructure. But both states are facing potential budget reductions that could significantly impact their public libraries, and both have called on residents and legislators alike to speak up for their library services.