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Library traffic grows, but staff doesn’t

Ronaldo Barber, president of Local 1482, (left), waits to address crowd at City Hall rally calling for more funds, while NYPL President Tony Marx speaks.

The Elmhurst Library has one of the highest circulations in the country. To accommodate all the traffic, the Queens branch expanded its operating hours and added two more floors.

The Glen Oaks Library, another branch library in Queens, also added more floors. But despite the increase in the amount of New Yorkers using these libraries and the renovations, the number of staff working at these neighborhood institutions has remained stagnant.

“We have proven if a library is renovated or a new one is built, the community will flock to us,” said Ronaldo Barber, president of Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482. Barber was at City Hall with DC 37 leaders Valentin Colon, president of New York Public Library Guild Local 1930, Leonard Paul, president of Quasi-Public Employees Local 374 and Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop.

The DC 37 leaders joined other library activists on the steps of City Hall at a press conference to advocate for more library funding. Afterward, the leaders proceeded to a preliminary budget hearing for fiscal 2019 to address members of the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs.

Dennis Walcott, Queens Library president, was at City Hall with the union activists to launch the “Invest in Libraries,” campaign.

“People are using our libraries in record numbers,” said Walcott at the March 16 press conference. “But we need to continue investing.”

Library activists are calling for an additional $16 million in expense funding to continue six-day service and programs and $60 million for capital funding to repair roofs, and install air conditioning and ventilation systems.

“Our libraries are an extension of our educational system,” said DC 37 Executive Associate Director, Oliver Gray at the press conference. “They need to be funded accordingly.”