Editorial | Keep NYC libraries, the roots of our communities, fully funded

Funding rally at Queens Library in Flushing
Residents rallied outside the Flushing Library in Queens on June 23, 2024 calling for the full restoration of funding in the upcoming city budget.
Photo via X/@NYCCouncil

A public library in New York City is not a book repository; it is the heart of a community.

Take the Flushing branch of the Queens Library as one example. Located on Main Street, it sits in the heart of a multicultural community connecting residents, many of whom are newcomers to America, with all different resources. 

The Flushing Library houses the Flushing Adult Learning Center, which advertises online an array of programs aimed at helping residents find work, and immigrants find opportunity in their new home. The center offers GED exam prep, English as second language classes, job readiness workshops, social service referrals, technology training and, most critically, citizenship preparation.

Local teens also come to the Flushing Library for its teen center which offers various programs aimed at helping young New Yorkers enhance their creativity and learning. Almost all of these programs are free to join.

The Flushing Library also boasts an array of free events for anyone to attend — craft classes, painting, movie screenings, LGBTQ+ outreach, etc. 

All the services the Flushing Library offers to the community prove the worth of all three public library systems in New York City — all of which are now suffering the strain from previous Adams Administration budget cuts. As the June 30 city budget deadline looms, this is the best opportunity for City Hall to reverse those cuts, bring all three library systems back to full strength, and reinvest in each community.

During a rally on Sunday outside the Flushing Library in support of greater library funding, the area’s City Council representative, Sandra Ung, spoke eloquently about the library’s importance not just to the community, but in her own life.

“As someone who came here not knowing a word of English, libraries are the first place I went to borrow the books, so I could learn the language,” Ung said. “And right now, this library is where immigrants come to access the resources they need. Libraries are a trusted place.”

The question of funding our libraries ought to be a no-brainer; it ought not be a question at all. These “trusted places” for New Yorkers are as essential to the city’s life as police departments, firehouses and schools — but if libraries lack the necessary funding to serve, children lose a safe learning place, residents lose out on culture, and immigrants lose a critical lifeline.

Every library branch, you might say, is a root upon which the city’s neighborhoods stand and receive the nourishment to grow and flourish. City Hall must take care to keep these roots well-watered with funds, so our neighborhoods and their people blossom for years to come.