Around 3.3 million people visited the 19 libraries in the Countee Cullen network, stretching from the Upper West Side to Inwood, in fiscal 2010, compared with 2.7 million in 2007.
a proposed $33 million in budget cuts, the library is still feeling the pinch. It’s currently running a fundraising campaign to fill a 26 percent shortfall in its book buying budget
While 130,000 supporters – rallying at City Hall, sending in donations and lobbying elected officials — helped stop a proposed $33 million in budget cuts, the library is still feeling the pinch. It’s currently running a fundraising campaign to fill a 26 percent shortfall in its book buying budget.
“The city is not in very good shape,” Countee Cullen hub manager Michael Rodriguez says.
“Of course we are hoping for the best, but in some ways we are preparing for the worst as well.”
Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of the library, is also seeking help. “Recent budget cuts have threatened core elements of the Schomburg’s activities including our award-winning public programs,” director Howard Dodson said in an email to the Schomburg’s thousands of members and supporters. “That is why I am asking you to help by joining as a member of The Schomburg Society.”
Dodson, scheduled to retire on Feb. 1 after 26 years leading the center, believes in making the best of what’s available. “My philosophy is, you don’t fold up the tent. You do what you can,” he said in an interview.
The Schomburg no longer receives the $150,000 to $250,000 a year previously allocated by the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus. “When the state gets caught up in its budgetary wars, we get caught in it,” says Dodson. Its national membership program, established in 2000 and chaired by the writer Maya Angelou, raised $7 million from its 9,000 to 10,000 members a year who annually pay from $35 to $25,000.
But the $700,000 to $750,000 the membership program raises each year isn’t enough for the Schomburg to sustain itself. After state and city budget cuts, it has reduced its staff by 10 to 12 people and suspended a traveling exhibition program.
It used to mount up to four exhibitions a year at its Lenox Ave. galleries but trimmed that to two. It has begun closing on Mondays, reducing its days of operation to five. Even the acquisition budget was reduced. “We are not acquiring everything we would have five years ago,” says Dodson.
Elsewhere in the library system, the bulk of the cuts are now confined to the book- buying fund and programming budgets. But some sites also reduced operating hours.
Staff are trying to be “as optimistic as possible”, Rodriguez says; he’s focusing on training to ensure branch employees are able to work a variety of jobs.
Library spokeswoman Angela Montifinise said the book-buying cuts had affected all branches. “Due to the cuts, we were forced to reduce the number of new acquisitions across all formats – print, non-print, downloadable, etc – and all age groups,” she said in a statement.
Private donations to the library’s fundraising campaign will be matched two to one by trustee James S. Tisch, the library says.
The financial restraints have also inspired Dodson to look for creative programming solutions. The Schomburg is collaborating with the New York Opera and has expanded its independent film series in place of other, more expensive programs.
Its anniversary gala on Jan. 24th will also be a fundraiser.