Branches of Opportunity in The News: New Yorkers Rely on the City’s Public Libraries

THE NEW YORK TIMES — To see how New York City’s library systems stack up next to other big cities’ libraries in terms of government support, you might want to check the cookbook shelves under “chopped liver.”

In Columbus, Ohio, the libraries are open an average of 29 more hours a week. San Francisco’s receive up to three times as much per capita from the local government.

Meanwhile, New York’s three public library systems — workhorses all — are trying to do more with less: the city’s contribution to their operating budgets has declined by more than 7 percent, adjusted for inflation, over the past decade, even as circulation and program attendance have increased.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis of New York’s libraries and a comparison with 21 other major American library systems, plus Toronto’s, published Tuesday morning by the Center for an Urban Future.

Read the complete article here.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS — When so many resources and services are available online for free—from Wikipedia to Google Books—it’s tempting to dismiss public libraries as obsolete. In reality, the city’s brick-and-mortar libraries have become even more critical at a time when far too many New Yorkers lack the basic literacy, language and technological skills that are needed in today’s knowledge economy.

It’s long past time the city’s politicians started treating them the same way our people do: as vital resources, not as afterthoughts.

Read the complete article here.

WNYC — E-books have not spelled the demise of the local library in New York. In fact, according to a new report from the Center for an Urban Future, 40.5 million people visited the city’s public libraries, more than all of the city’s professional sports teams and major cultural institutions combined.

The report released on Tuesday, “Branches of Opportunity,” looks at the changing role of the city’s libraries in the digital age. It finds that while public libraries are serving more New Yorkers than ever, they are “undervalued by policymakers and face growing threats.”

Read the complete article and listen to the radio segment here.

Click here to watch NY1’s conversation with Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, and representatives from the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens libraries.