Despite expanded operating hours, New York City’s public libraries still lag behind other municipalities across the state and country, according to a report set for release Tuesday.
The Center for an Urban Future said that on average, city libraries are open 48.9 hours, which is nearly nine more hours than a decade ago. However, those operating times trail the library systems in San Antonio, which are open on average 56.5 hours a week, Los Angeles with an average of 52.9 hours, San Diego at 52.7 hours, Dallas at 52 hours and Chicago with 49.1 hours.
Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, said this discrepancy is a problem for the millions of library users who depend on the branches, not just for books but also for broadband access, job training and other services.
“New York has some catching up to do,” he said. “For many working people, there isn’t an opportunity to get to a library that’s open.”
New York also ranks seventh in the state when it comes to library hours, trailing Suffolk County, which led with an average of 64.2 hours a week, Nassau County’s 64 hours, Rockland County at 60.1 hours, Westchester County at 54.6 hours, Onondaga County with 53.5 hours and Monroe County at 50.5 hours, according to the report.
The center also noted that 9% of New York libraries, 15 branches, are open seven days a week compared with all of San Antonio’s branches and 35% of San Diego’s libraries. The City Council has called for a $34 million increase from the mayor’s office to the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens libraries’ budgets to expand seven-day service to 53 branches.
Representatives from each of the library systems said the increase would ensure one seven-day operating branch in each council district.
“The public needs us to be open more often; we can’t open doors of opportunity when our actual doors are closed, after all,” New York Public Library president Tony Marx said in a statement.
Seth Stein, a representative for the mayor’s office, said the administration has helped to raise funding to ensure six-day library operation at all branches.
“The city’s libraries are a treasured resource for New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.