The city announced a major $20 million dollar increase for its public libraries for the 2023 fiscal year. This budget win comes after the Center for an Urban Future has consistently called for increased funding for libraries, which have proven to be the most democratic and versatile type of social infrastructure in New York City while also one of the most underfunded.
Our 2021 report Branches to Recovery made the case for significantly increasing financial support for the city’s 217 public libraries. Libraries are in nearly every community across the five boroughs, and are often the only local, public hubs for jobseekers and entrepreneurs seeking resume and small business support, new immigrants taking ESOL and citizenship classes, older adults learning to use new technology, and teens who need a safe, supportive environment after school.
But libraries are providing connections to these vital services and tools with an allocation that amounts to only 0.44 percent of the city budget—30 percent less than the Department of Parks and Recreation, 63 percent less than the Department of Corrections, and 92 percent less than the Police Department— and branches often struggle to meet the surging demand for their programs and services. CUF has called for a commitment from city leaders to invest in libraries so they can keep pace with high needs and long waitlists for popular programs.
CUF has published a number of trailblazing publications and events centered on harnessing the full potential of the city’s public libraries, including an op-ed “Harness NYC’s libraries to spread equity,” our forum Branches of Recovery, and our report Branches of Opportunity.