When I was a teenager living in a tenement in The Bronx back in the 1960s and I had a problem with my parents, I always knew there was a place a could go to sort things out in my mind and wait until the tension at home blew over. My safe haven was the local branch of the public library.
Anyone who visits the libraries today after three o'clock or on weekends knows that they are filled with young people seeking the same space that I needed when I was their age. But this crucial urban living space may soon disappear.
Mayor Michael "Moneybags" Bloomberg plans to cut the budget of the Brooklyn Public Library by $20.6 million in the next budget year. Sixteen branch libraries may close. Weekend hours in the surviving branches would be sharply curtailed. If the proposed cuts are implemented, there will be over 350 layoffs of library staff members, 30% of the current workforce, 6 million fewer library materials, 15,000 fewer free programs, and 725,000 fewer free public computer sessions.
A cut in library services is a cut in public education for the children of New York City, especially children from working-class and poor families who depend on the library for books, web access, and a quite place to study. I was one of those kids. Once I had an idiot for a social studies teacher. He gave out extra-credit on your current events homework if you included pictures from magazines. But we didn't have any magazines in our house, so I used to do my homework in the library. This was before copy machines and you were not allowed to cut up library material - so I didn't get the extra credit. But at least I got to do my homework.
What pisses me off is that Mayor Moneybags, who claims education is his top priority, could cover the entire library budget deficit with a tiny fraction of his $17 billion personal wealth. But Moneybags either does not understand the importance of libraries to working-class and poor kids or just does not care.
So we have to really yell loud. You can sign a petition against the cuts at the Brooklyn Public Library website or pledge a donation.
There will be a rally in support of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, May 15, 2010, from noon to 2 PM. It will be held in front of the main branch at Grand Army Plaza. I will be there and I hope to see many of you.