SUNNYSIDE, Queens (PIX11) – Dozens of book lovers rallied outside the Queens Library branch in Sunnyside Tuesday evening to send a message to Mayor Eric Adams: Libraries are a lifeline in their neighborhoods.

“We need libraries, we need books, we need the money that the city took,” the protesters chanted.

Their anger was directed at the mayor.  

“Making sure that we protect the library as a resource center for the community is essential,” said college student Ru Sosa, who also works as a library page. “The library provides so much more services than just circulating books. It provides immigrant services, services for seniors. I personally, as a page, am looking for a job, so I’m utilizing the job career development services the library provides.”

There’s been outrage since the mayor announced his $103 billion proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024. Libraries stand to lose $13 million this year and over $20 million next year.

During his budget announcement last week, Adams defended the proposed cuts and said it’s less about eliminating programs and more about not filling existing vacant jobs in the city’s three public library systems – New York, Brooklyn, and Queens.

“I’m a big believer in libraries. What we’re looking at are the vacancies,” said Adams. “These are tough times; I can’t tell you how many times one of my deputy mayors has said can you spare this agency? Can you spare that agency, but we have to send a message. We must find more efficient ways of running our city.”

But library supporters said it’s not just a place to read books. Libraries serve neighborhoods where residents rely on their local branch to provide internet access and where low-income families send their children to a safe space for after-school programs.

Damien Andrade said he has relied on the library branch in his Sunset Park neighborhood his entire life.

“Having cuts to these libraries is a disrespect to me and all my other students as well from low-income communities,” said Andrade. “Cuts to our public libraries will devastate all of our children and the youth.”

City Council candidate Hailie Kim and community leaders organized Tuesday night’s rally. Advocates, students, and library employees are worried the budget cuts could result in reducing operating hours and staff as well as the loss of tutoring and other programs like language services and immigrant services.