Vox pop: What the Library Means to Me

Issue 279

Katie Pruden May 8, 2023

We spoke with New York City library-goers about what they value in the city’s libraries. The cover story of our May 2023 issue was “Punching Down on Libraries: Budget-cutting Mayor Targets Beloved NYC Institution.”

The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Pacific Library, Downtown Brooklyn

Katie Pruden

What’s something that you appreciate about the library?

I do a lot of research, and email, and catching up with people. For me, it’s very important because I don’t have a computer at home. It’s vital for me also for help with technology, because all the cutting and pasting and everything. There is always someone here who can help me. 

How would shortened hours of operation or less access to programs affect you?

It hurts a lot of people, especially the seniors and the students. A lot of students come after school. So, where are they going to go? If anything, they should expand the hours and not cut them. 

Seward Park Library, Chinatown

Elinor Kry

What’s something you appreciate about the public library?

Free resources, not only books, but a facility, a place to go, a community point. The internet, video, all sorts of stuff. 

How do you feel about possible shortened hours or full day closures, if this budget is approved? 

We hate to hear things like that, that help so many people, being cut when so many other things are not. Or, budgets are increasing for certain things. We want to raise a reader, so as he gets older, it’s something we want to use. I think it’s crazy that it closes at three on weekdays. It’s already not open as much as it should be. Kids coming out of school, where are they going to do homework? I thought that was the place where kids did that. 

Seward Park Library, Chinatown

Elinor Kry

What’s something that you appreciate about the library?

For me, for an adult, the easiest way for us to use it is to order a book online and come pick it up here. But, I watch the kids and they come out of the library with piles of books. Their parents bring them here regularly and they check out a lot of books. Mostly books in Chinese, but sometimes they have a mix.

Did you see the sign around here that we made? It said something like, ‘If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need.’

With the possibility of shortened hours or full day closures, who do you think will be affected? 

If the teenagers don’t have their place at the library, where are they going to go? They’re gonna be out here, smoking pot, messing things up. Not because they are bad kids, but because they don’t have anything else to do. They get into mischief. Think about teenage boys, I used to have one. They are unbelievable, a different species. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn; has worked at the Pacific Library for about a year.

I’m a data program assistant. I do a little bit of everything. [The library] is really important because I feel like it is mostly for the community and so there are a lot of resources available. If people don’t have access to a computer, no one really asks for much information here. It’s more like, ‘do you have an ID?’ and then you can get a library card, and use all the resources from there. 

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