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Library Presidents Urge City Council to Restore Funds

The New York City Council met Monday morning to discuss Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed $100 million in budget cuts to the city's three library systems.

Presidents from the Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library testified at the meeting, urging the council to restore the mayor's proposed cuts so they could avoid laying off hundreds of workers, closing library branches and limiting the number of books they can purchase.

After the library presidents testified, the meeting got heated when council members asked New York Public Library President and CEO, Anthony Marx, about a new program his library is piloting at 50 city schools in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island called "Biblio Schools."

Through Biblio Schools, teachers and students can borrow items from the New York Public Library's catalog of over 50 million items and get them delivered to their schools.

Brooklyn Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., who is the chair of the City Council's finance committee, warned Marx the library should wait for the budget to be settled before moving ahead with new projects.

"You just testified that you need this $46 million back to avoid layoffs and you keep on implementing these new programs," he said. "We're all for new programs. But in these tough economic times, could you explain to this City Council how you could implement this new program knowing you're facing devastating budget cuts?"

Marx answered by saying the library had raised private funds to pay for the start-up costs of the program and that the Department of Education was footing the bill for the delivery of books.

Councilman Recchia responded by asking how much the Department of Education was paying for Biblio Schools and requested a separate hearing be held to discuss the program.

The Department of Education said it had not yet paid anything for the program, which started in October, but that in the next several weeks it would sort out with the New York Public Library who was paying for what.

Since Biblio Schools began, 72,768 items have been checked out to students and teachers, according to the New York Public Library.

Most of the mayor's proposed budget cuts last year were restored. The next hearing on library cuts will be June 6. A budget agreement needs to be reached by June 30.