By NYLU BERNSHTAYN, age 10
In 2015, budgets for the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library were cut. In response, New Yorkers, including students, librarians and authors such as Judy Blume and Junot Díaz, launched a grassroots campaign called “Invest in Libraries” to raise awareness of the cuts.
Public libraries are essential for many individuals, especially those living in poverty and/or recently arrived immigrants. People of all ages and backgrounds can access Wi-Fi and computers, take classes ranging from computer basics to understanding immigrant employment rights, and enjoy various exhibitions and programming, all for free. Darin Brenchley, an avid public library patron, says, “At the Science, Business and Industry Library, for example, I can access rare books on architecture, literature, cartography and science with my library card. I do not have to be a wealthy collector; I just need my NYPL card.”
New Yorkers went to City hall to speak out against the cuts with rallies, petitions, testimonials from popular authors and a 24-hour read-in of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” a novel about what could happen if the government outlawed books. City leaders listened. On June 22, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council announced their budget agreement, which allocated an extra $43 million for the city’s libraries. The Library Journal reports that the additional funding will allow for a restoration of six-day service at all library branches, and will create 500 jobs.
Though this is a historic win, the long-neglected New York City public library system is in such disrepair that it will take a long time before libraries across all five boroughs are renovated and repaired.