NEW SIENA RESEARCH INSTITUTE POLL:

76% OF NEW YORKERS FAVOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO GUARANTEE ACCESS TO LIBRARIES & LIBRARY SERVICES

NEW YORK’S “DIGITAL DIVIDE” GROWING: PUBLIC LIBRARIES ARE PRIMARY POINT OF INTERNET ACCESS FOR 20% OF COMMUNITIES OF COLOR VS. ONLY 4% OF WHITE NEW YORKERS

NEW YORKERS ‘THROWING THE BOOK’ AT CUOMO: 90% REJECT REPEATED CUTS TO LIBRARY SERVICES

ALBANY, NY – New Yorkers are “throwing the book” at Governor Cuomo over his third straight year of cuts to libraries and library services, according to a new Siena College Research Institute poll. The recent poll conducted between February 4th – February 7th of this year, found that 90% of New Yorkers reject Governor Cuomo’s third round of proposed cuts to public, school, and college library services, with 76% of New Yorkers now supporting a constitutional amendment to protect access to quality libraries and library services as a basic right.

Governor Cuomo’s FY2020 Executive Budget marks his third consecutive year of funding cuts to the state’s library aid and public library capital improvement programs. Since taking office in 2011, all nine of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budgets have proposed to defund the library aid formula contained in state law.

“Governor Cuomo is grossly out of step with the needs of New Yorkers when it comes libraries and library services,” said Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director of the New York Library Association. “The Governor’s repeated, devastating cuts to library services have deepened the digital divide and institutionalized information inequity. New Yorkers are fed up, and now believe a constitutional amendment is their best protection against Governor Cuomo’s indifference to the ‘information underclass’ he precipitated.”

The New York Library Association notes the recent poll results highlight the role of local libraries as indispensable points of internet access: for more than 2 million New Yorkers, including 20% of respondents with annual household incomes of less than $50,000, their local public library serves as their primary point of internet access.

Polling data further indicates that New York’s digital divide is driven by race and ethnicity rather than income: of respondents who indicate their local public library is their primary point of internet access, 20% represent communities of color - including 30% of Latino respondents - compared to just 4% of white respondents.

“Millions of New Yorkers from historically oppressed and marginalized communities have been digitally disenfranchised by the Cuomo Administration’s policies around information equity, with funding for library services as a prime example” according to Mike Neppl, General Counsel & Director of Government Relations for the New York Library Association. “Disparate development of core literacies – including financial, health, and digital literacies – have been exacerbated by the Governor’s repeated funding cuts to library services. This targeted defunding of library services and public library infrastructure disproportionately impacts historically vulnerable populations of New Yorkers. This isn’t just a funding issue, it’s a moral issue.”

Renewing previous warnings from the New York Library Association that New York State is woefully unprepared for the upcoming federal 2020 Census -- the first Census in history that will be conducted primarily online – Neppl says the Siena polling data confirms New York is heading towards a devastating undercount that will diminish political representation in Congress and threaten nearly $60 billion in annual federal funding.

“In light of this data, the New York Library Association again calls on Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to commit $40 million to ensure local libraries are ready to assist the millions of New Yorkers without home internet complete their Census questionnaires. Everyone deserves to be counted and will count on their library for help,” Neppl said.

Additional poll findings include:

  1. 80% of New Yorkers utilize the resources of their local public library, with one-third of those respondents indicating they use the library at least once a month;
  2. 75% of respondents indicate their local library plays an important role in helping people find trustworthy information, including nearly 85% of Latino respondents, according to 2018 polling data;
  3. New Yorkers value library services in all settings: 97% say it is important that elementary school students have access to a school library staffed by a certified school librarian, 96% say it is important in the secondary school setting, and 91% in the college setting;
  4. This recent poll confirms prior polling that showed 90% support increased funding, and 92% consider their public library as a core component of their local education infrastructure.

To learn more about the Library Advocacy Agenda visit nyla.org/agenda.

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