July 17, 2013
Brooklyn libraries remain closed after being hit with a heat wave
by Claire Kelley
On the Brooklyn Public Library website, a blog post from 2010 offers respite in the borough’s branches from sweltering New York summer heat:
The dog days of summer are upon us. These humid days and sweltering temps can not only be miserable, but potentially life threatening. Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) would like to urge you to stay cool at one of our 60 locations. The New York City Office of Emergency Management has designated BPL as one of dozens of cooling centers throughout the city.
But even with its official “cooling center” status, four branches of the Brooklyn Public Library system—Brooklyn Heights, Brownsville, Flatlands, and Clinton Hill—have been forced to close over the past week due to a lack of funds to fix brooken air conditioners and other infrastructure needs and repairs. According to an article in the New York Daily News, the cost of these fixes in the 60 libraries in the Brooklyn Public Library system—which include roof repairs, broken boilers, old computers, and run-down furniture—would require $300 million. The Brooklyn Eagle tabulated that the Brooklyn Heights branch alone needs repairs that cost $13,872,127.89. Library spokesman Jerermy Soffin said the problem doesn’t have an immediate solution:
While we do have a number of upcoming projects to repair (air conditioning) systems, our ongoing capital funding crisis means there are branches that have to close altogether in heat emergencies because we simply cannot afford the upgrades needed to keep them comfortable.
The budget battle this year ended in the clearest victory we have seen in years. For the first time since 2008 there were NO cuts to the city library budgets. Yes we are absolutely ecstatic about things holding level, that might be a little strange but since we have been watching a slow death by a thousand cuts this year staying whole is really important.
Urban Libraries Unite also has just announced that they are organizing a new office space for advocacy, programming after Hurricane Sandy, and volunteer coordination, and they’re eager for help.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.