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Never on Sunday! Public Library eliminates service

The Brooklyn Public Library has eliminated Sunday hours in all her branches — including the Central Branch in Grand Army Plaza, above. This is a big deal.
The Brooklyn Public Library main branch.

Add this to the list of cutbacks that are making our lives increasingly difficult: there are no longer any public library hours on Sundays.

Facing city and state cuts of $2.2 million from its $100-million budget, and with more funding reductions on the horizon, the city’s third-largest library system will save an estimated $800,000 by closing all of its locations — including $350,000 in savings by shuttering the busy Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza.

That amount of savings aren’t worth the larger cost to library users.

“For a lot of folks, Sunday is the go-to day for the library,” said Christina Curran, director of adult education for the Fifth Avenue Committee. “It’s insane that Brooklyn won’t have a library open on Sundays for the working people and the people trying to help their kids with school work. It’s really shortsighted.”

But library Executive Director Dionne Mack-Harvin said she ordered the cutbacks because under the current contract, union employees get time-and-a-half on Sundays, but not on Saturdays.

That contract was renegotiated last year on Mack-Harvin’s watch.

During tough times, libraries are typically the first city service on the chopping block — though just as often, most of the funding gets restored during budget negotiations. But this year might be different.

“We usually do the budget dance, but the economy being is the way it is, we understand that it’s just going to be tougher for everyone this year,” Mack-Harvin said.

To fill the rest of the budget hole, the library plans to decrease book purchasing and replacement and has implemented a hiring freeze, Mack-Harvin said.

Unsurprisingly, bookworms aren’t taking kindly to the closures.

“I work long hours during the week, so I usually can’t make it at night,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Vivian Merker. “I’d rather see alternate days of closure at each branch, that way you could still get to a library other days of the week.”

Residents of Borough Park and Midwood — where branches on 43rd Street and East 16th Street remained open on Sundays until this latest round of cuts — say the closure effectively denies Orthodox Jews access to the libraries all weekend.

“The majority of the people here are Sabbath observers, so Sundays are when they use it — not Saturdays,” said Community Board 12 District Manager Wolf Sender. “The library is a necessity. A lot of the people here don’t have the Internet, so their only lifeline to books is the library.”

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