The mausoleum style gates adorned with golden Egyptian hieroglyphic figures, the Brooklyn Public Library beckon visitors to come inside. The first thing newcomers see is a recently installed security desk—and just beyond on the way the information desk, multi-colored flyers announcing biweekly writers circle meetings, arts forums, a Kafka in Context book discussion series, classical and Latin music concerts, and poetry readings line the wall. Colorful quilts belonging to the Botanical Inspirations exhibit by the Quilters’ Guild of Brooklyn hang off the high ceilings, on the walls, and on panel. In the midst of this, high school students study and chat at café style round tables in front of the collections.
At first glance, the Brooklyn Library has a lot on its shelves for the whole community, it seems. More than 850,000 patrons visit each year and participate in the some 43,000 special programs the library serves up each year. But soon, it may be a struggle for the library to continue offering many of them because of budget squeezes, which could cut library hours in half, could result in the closure of 16 neighborhood branches, and could nix the planned purchase of 110,000 books.
The Brooklyn Public Library, a non-profit, receives more than 65 percent of its funding from federal, state, and city sources. In the face of cutbacks over the past five years, it has looked to corporate sponsors like Walmart, New York Live and ConEdison to make up the difference. But these funds no longer sufficient to cover the gap. Roughly $3 million in library funds has been cut from the city budget each year since 2008, resulting in a cumulative total cut of 20 percent of city funds. That means 34 percent has to come from elsewhere.
Library officials have come up with alternative methods to raise money, as a result. The latest effort: a T-shirt line. With the help of Brooklyn Industries, a socially conscious designer clothing company that sells online and has 14 retail outfits, the library launched a T-shirt line for the Brooklyn Library’s Support Our Shelves campaign last Wednesday at its store on 70 Fulton Street in DUMBO.
“Our target is $50,000,” said Erin Williams, marketing manager for Brooklyn Industries. He added that this is the second year in a row that the clothing manufacturer has been involved in the library fundraising effort. Twenty percent of the proceeds form the $28 kids and adult T-shirts go toward book purchases. The limited edition t-shirts are available online at www.brooklynindustries.com.
These kinds of partnerships and fundraising efforts will become more commonplace due to recent budget cut announcements, resulting in a loss of 170 jobs since 2008. New budget cut proposals could cut lay off an additional 350 employees, according to the appeal the Brooklyn Public Library made to the New York City Council on March 13, 2012 in response to the 2013 preliminary budget. The library also testified that the proposed cuts could endanger their adult literacy and ESOL programs.
“We have experienced an increased reliance on new funding streams,” said Jason Carey, director of marketing and communications for the Brooklyn Library. “Everybody who relies on public funding is looking for new money. It’s an ongoing challenge. But we encourage everyone to donate because the money goes back to purchasing books.”