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During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, New York City imposed deep budget cuts on the three library systems: the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Borough Public Library. As the city cut budgets, the public demanded that libraries be kept open, and elected officials struggled to do both. The Queens Library’s staff was reduced from over 1,100 to barely 700, with branches open only two or three days a week, with one staff serving both. New buildings remained vacant because the library lacked funds to operate them. When the library proposed closing some branches, the NAACP successfully sued. In the late 1970s, the three systems came to rely upon federal monies for the first time for basic operations. In the early 1980s the city regained its financial footing and library services stabilized, but the budgeting process for the libraries has remained politicized.


This work was originaly published in Libraries: Culture, History, and Society.



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