June 11, 2010KR BlogKR

We Will Not Be Shushed: Save Our Libraries!

This Sunday morning ??? oh, probably around 4:30 am or so ??? my sweetie and I will drag ourselves out of bed, get dressed, and ride our bikes to the Brooklyn Public Library.

Or maybe we’ll pretend we’re in our 20’s again and stay out all night at this post-Brooklyn-Pride party and then take a cab over to the library.

In any case, from 5:30 to 5:45 am, I’ll be reading some poetry on the steps of the library. Why on earth would I do such a thing?

To help save our libraries.


Here’s the deal: All three of the New York public library systems (Brooklyn, Queens, New York) are facing massive budget cuts ??? about $81 million. If the cuts go through, over a thousand librarians and other employees are going to be laid off, and community branches will be forced to drastically cut their hours or ??? worse ??? close their doors altogether.

This, in a time when library use is at an all time high. And not just for checking out books, either.

Since I’ve lived in New York, library nerd that I am, I’ve hung out at a bunch of libraries in Brooklyn and Manhattan. (I haven’t made it to any Queens Library yet, but they were named the Library of the Year in 2009 by the Library Journal.) I always feel like I am walking into a vibrant community space when I walk through the doors. Teens at computers doing homework (or Facebook!), older folks browsing the stacks, story-time in the kid’s section.

Queens is home to some of the largest immigrant populations in the U.S. and the library is a place for them to gather, participate in programs, and check out materials geared specifically to their interests and needs. All that is being threatened by the cuts.

And I know that some of New York Writer’s Coalition’s most successful writing workshops take place in library branches that serve low-income communities of color: Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Sunset Park, Bed-Sty“ (Read some of their work here.) The library functions as these kids’ hang out, a safe place to spend their time after school. Where will they go if these branches close?


(Postcard from the Save the NYC oIbraries Flickr stream)
(from the Save the NYC Libraries Flickr stream)

It’s not just New York, either. Libraries across the country are facing sever funding cuts: LA, Boston, Hood River (Oregon), and more.

The thing is, librarians and library supporters aren’t going quietly. They’re putting up a fight ??? a creative, relentless, exuberant fight to save these important public spaces.

That’s what the 24-hour We Will Not Be Shushed Read-In is about: library workers and community members from all three library systems will conduct a read-in on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza from 5pm on Saturday June 12 through 5pm on Sunday June 13.

The Read-In is organized by some of the same folks who have been conducting the Save NYC Libraries Postcard Campaign, which has organized the sending of thousands of postcards to the NY City Council to protest the proposed budget cuts. So far, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s office alone has received about 2,000 postcards. The organizers’ of the event hope that many more postcards will be signed and sent at the Read-In.

The guerrilla comedy troupe Improve Everywhere even got into the spirit of awareness raising with this Ghostbusters re-enactment at the reading room in the famous 42nd Street New York Public Library.

So if you’re in the New York area, come out to support the libraries! Rain or shine, the readers will be reading, all day and all night long. If you aren’t in the area, you can check out the reading via the live webcast. And, more importantly, go to your own public library and show them some love. They probably need it.

And you know, just ???cuz I love both my Gaga and my librarians, I’ll leave you with this“