The city's library systems are mobilizing to fight millions of dollars in proposed city budget cuts that threaten services in the more than 100 branches across the five boroughs. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Young children are getting a head start on preschool at a class at the City Island Library.
"He wasn't interested in books for quite a while, but we started to come to the program, come to the library a little more often, and we noticed that he's much more interested in us reading books to him," said a parent of a child in the program.
The program began in November when a children's librarian was hired after Mayor Bill de Blasio gave city libraries their first funding increase in six years.
The libraries had been stretched thin due to $65 million in cuts since 2008. The New York Public Library, which operates in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries lost about 1,000 employees, forcing reductions in hours and services.
"We can't offer everyone who comes to our orientation session a class in one of our ESOL program," said Amy Geduldi, senior publicist with the NYPL. "We have story times that are completely full because we can't offer any more. We have people who are waiting around the block, or we have to give out tickets."
The $10 million increase allocated to the city's library systems has already made an impact. Adding a staff member to the City Island branch has allowed other employees to attend training sessions to improve programs.
But that may be short-lived. While the mayor gave the libraries money this year, he's proposing to cut funding next year. The budget de Blasio has proposed for the year beginning July 1 calls for cutting that $10 million.
The city libraries are now calling on the mayor to rescind the cut, fully restore the funding eliminated since 2008 and provide $1.4 billion to repair and maintain library branches.
"We do tend to flood a little bit if it rains too much, so a retaining wall would be nice," said Judd Karlman, the library manager at the NYPL City Island branch.
An online campaign has been created to encourage New Yorkers to reach out to elected officials and advocate for their libraries. For more information, visit investinlibraries.org.