New York City public libraries are an invaluable public asset. Everyday tens of thousands of New Yorkers go through the doors. People of every race, creed, orientation, and age make use of the free resources which the libraries provide. It is a HUGE public undertaking, a task so large that it takes three of the largest and finest library institutions in the world to serve it. Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library provide services which go far beyond books and computer access. Resources available to everyone include ESOL classes, job search support, technology training, and more. All three of our libraries are recognized leaders in the field and despite years of budget pressure remain cutting edge public institutions.
These institutions need the support of our public officials. We have been fortunate to gain many allies in office during our various library advocacy efforts but the mayors office has always been a tough nut to crack. While personally incredibly supportive of libraries Mayor Bloomberg has used libraries as a budget tool and library activists are hopeful that new leadership may set a new tone in the discussion of libraries in the city.
The next mayor will have a chance to leverage incredible assets by supporting libraries or they can limit these incredibly cost effective public resources through budget choices. Urban Librarians Unite, a library advocacy organization based in New York City sent a questionnaire to all of the mayoral candidates in May to see where they stood and what their vision for libraries was for our city if they were mayor.
We heard back from Sal F. Albanese, John Liu, Christine Quinn, and Anthony Weiner. Each of the candidates who responded spoke very highly of the role of the library in the community. The questionnaire had some very serious questions about library budgets and hours including a direct question about baseline funding. We got some great answers on hard issues.
We appreciate the time and candor that went into each answer and thank all of the candidates for responding.
Some highlights listed in alphabetical order by candidate.
"To me, libraries are as vital a part of quality neighborhoods as schools, parks, hospitals, and mass transit. In 2013, library usage is skyrocketing. Immigrants, job seekers, students, and seniors - New Yorkers of all kinds - rely on libraries as an indispensable rung on the ladder to greater opportunities. They have been and should continue to be centers of opportunity to learn, find employment, and engage more deeply in community life."
-- Sal F. Albanese
"[Libraries are] the gateway to knowledge, first through the book collections, and now, increasing through internet access for those who do not have it; they provide a quiet place to study and/or work; and for some, it is the place where many children are introduced to the joys of reading through many of the libraries children's programs."
-- John Liu
"Libraries are extremely personal to me, and I know how important they can be. They are special, peaceful places where job-seekers can learn new skills, immigrants can get information on how to assimilate and access services, residents without computers can use the internet, or people can just shut out noise and distractions and focus on a book in silence."
-- Christine Quinn
"Libraries are a refuge to expand your mind and world. They play a critical role in fostering educational growth and developing an informed citizenry."
-- Anthony Weiner
Urban Librarians Unite, as a 501c3 not for profit organization, does not formally endorse any candidate.