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Empty Shelves, Empty Reference Desks

Jun 11, 2010 2:13 PM | 1 comment


I'm sure, good readers, that you have all been watching the New York State and New York City budgets closely.  Many of us in the Brooklyn Collection, and at Brooklyn Public Library as a whole, have been watching the budget negotiations compulsively. Budget mania is nothing new to the libraries in New York City and I write that with a sigh because libraries are easy targets over and over again.  As archivist of the Brooklyn Collection, my work allows me to sort through photo folders and photocopied newspaper clippings and pieces of ephemera.  I'm glad to say that we kept a lot of wonderful, though terribly familiar, documentation on the last major budget crisis the library faced. 

Front cover of BPL's 1991-1992 Annual Report

 Budget Cuts devastated the library in the early 1990s. In the photo below, Borough President Howard Golden (the namesake of our Reserve Room in the Brooklyn Collection) said of the crisis at a rally "What good are the books, the priceless collections, the films, tapes and records if these doors are padlocked?" 

Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden at 1991 library rally

A New York Daily News columnist Bob Herbert wrote "A whole lot of libraries are targeted for oblivion.  Closed, they will become quaint objects of our past.  Eventually, they will fade from all but a corner of our consciousness, like the trolleys and the Dodgers."

1991 Budget Rally

In article after article, I read that people were outraged over the cuts.  They wondered how such devastating cuts could happen in the face of increased library usage and ever increasing demands for service--when people were using the library for language classes, homework help and job searching.  Sound familiar? 

1991 Budget Rally

 And what was the result of these rallies and marches and campaigns?  Well, the city reallocated funds reducing the budget cuts from 33 to 18 percent--still a giant chunk of money gone.  The library saw a very large number of layoffs that year.  One particularly upsetting article came from New York Newsday from June 30, 1991.  It describes the last day of one worker in a branch library.  202 employees had similar days.  This year, it will be closer to 350.

Perhaps one of the more uplifting photos (abve) is of the group R.A.L.L.Y - Rap Artists For Libraries, Literacy, and Youth. 

Tomorrow, Saturday June 12 through Sunday June 13 a different kind of rally will take place.  The planned Read-In is simply a statement of dedication to libraries by library workers. 

Please come to see the faces of those who work for you as reference, children's, young adult, adult, senior and special collections librarians, those who plan programs, check out your books and make sure you have help using the computers, those of us who show you where to find the books on the shelves and those who make sure those books are on the shelves in the first place, who create the catalogues and the web sites and exhibits.  Click on the silhouette below to find out more about tomorrow's read-in and look for photos next week.  Better yet, be a part of history and come to the rally.  We don't shush you - don't let budget cuts shush us!


6/12/2010 11:58:57 AM #