Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Despite Rising Demand, Budget Cuts Loom for Bronx Libraries

Facing huge budget cuts, Bronx library officials pleaded today for money as their branches prepare to reduce hours. Starting on Feb. 16, most of the borough’s 34 libraries will be open about six hours less, dropping from an average of 51 hours a week to 45. Only the Bronx Library Center on East Kingsbridge Road will remain open on Sundays.  And this may only be the beginning, officials say.


Jean Stewart, who visits the Melrose Library four times a week, is concerned about how the library's cutbacks will affect her reading routine. Photo by Sam Fellman

“The unfortunate reality is that more cuts loom on the horizon,” Michael Alvarez, a library manager at the Bronx Library Center, said at a Bronx Borough Board hearing on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposed budget.

Behind the turmoil is a midyear cut of $5.9 million of city funding for the New York City libraries, coming atop a $900,000 decrease in state aid. And larger cuts loom.  The mayor’s budget proposal for the 2011 fiscal year, which would go into effect in July, reduces the library budget by an additional $33 million when compared to this year.

The reductions come amid increasing demand by Bronx residents for services from resume training and job search assistance to English classes.  A total of 4.9 million books and other items were checked out last year, a rise of seven percent, with library visits also up,  Alvarez said.

“Families who are now unable to buy books or go to the movies are using our book and DVD collections in record numbers,”  Alvarez said in a statement.

For many Bronx residents, the Sunday closures will mean lifestyle changes for some and increased inconvenience for many.

“These are the resources that people depend on,” said Aurelia Greene, the Bronx deputy borough president. “For someone who’s working all week, when can they go to the library? If I’m working a six-day job, Sunday is my only day.”

Rafael Mora, a student at Lehman College, agreed. He said he used Bronx libraries on the weekend, like a lot of other high school and college students, to catch up on his homework.

Other residents who depend on the library for job search assistance or just a place to read are upset at the changes. One of them is Jean Stewart, a former library assistant, who visits the Melrose library, on Morris Avenue, at least four times a week to read.

“I don’t think they need to cut back on the hours now at all,” Stewart said.

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