New York Libraries seek $1.1 billion for renovations

DollarsWhat do broken air conditioning units, burst pipes, and leaky ceiling tiles all have in common? They’re all problems commonly plaguing New York’s public libraries, for one. The issues are so prevalent now that city leaders have been forced to compile and release a report documenting the state of the libraries and their budget estimate for the money needed to get them fixed back up.

Back in September, a New York-based think tank, the Center for an Urban Future, released its own report that estimated the costs of making the libraries up to date and usable to be somewhere around $1.1 billion. The figure may be staggering, but city and library officials agreed in the report that it’s most likely accurate.

Along with the report, library leaders from several systems, including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New York public libraries released a joint statement of their “urgent appeal” for infrastructure funding for repair and upgrades. According to the report, many of the old buildings are in a state that isn’t appropriate for providing library services; a large issue concerns electrical wiring and power capabilities, which are of course becoming a more and more integral part of the services libraries are expected to supply when 21st century school work, job applications, and other patrons generally require a device with an Internet connection. It’s worth noting that, in a move that might help to relieve some stress from the library systems, New York has neighborhoods experimenting with state-provided wifi routers throughout the communities providing Internet access to residents without it.

Even so, many still depend on the libraries for tech services, and even those who don’t still deserve to be able to visit to pick out and read books in comfort. New York itself is one of the country’s oldest cities, and as such its public buildings have often existed without major overhauls for 20, 30, 50, or more years. This is true of many of the library buildings in the city; even some of the newest branches were constructed in the 60’s and 70’s.

As a result, problems outlined in the recent report include a lack of space, overcrowding, faulty air conditioning units, cracked and leaky ceiling tiles, lack of working outlets, broken elevators and windows, and lack of appropriate disabled access.

These problems are not recent, however, and the mayor has already been working to allocate budget resources for the past year in order to help alleviate the library issues. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office recently confirmed that the annual budget includes over half a billion dollars in funding. Library leaders are hoping that the other half of the costs can be accounted for through neighborhood and library associations, along with the help of private donors.

In addition to creating a fund for the library improvement projects, the mayor’s office also announced that the library system’s annual operating budget would be increasing by $23 million this year. Residents will surely be thankful if these funds can prove to be enough to bring the city’s library hubs up to standard.