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Report on NYC Public Libraries – Branches of Opportunity

Branches of Opportunity, January 2013, Center for an Urban Future – “As more and more New Yorkers turn to digital books, Wikipedia and other online tools for information and entertainment, there is a growing sense that the age of the public library is over. But, in reality, New York City’s public libraries are more essential than ever. Far from becoming obsolete, the city’s three public library systems— Brooklyn, Queens and New York, which encompasses the branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island — have experienced a 40 percent spike in the number of people attending programs and a 59 percent increase in circulation over the past decade. During that time, 48 different branches citywide have at least doubled annual attendance at programs, ranging from computer literacy classes to workshops on entrepreneurship, while 18 have more than doubled their circulation. These trends are grounded in the new realities of today’s knowledge economy, where it is difficult to achieve economic success or enjoy a decent quality of life without a range of basic literacy, language and technological skills. A distressingly large segment of the city’s population lacks these basic building blocks, but the public library has stepped in, becoming the second chance human capital institution. No other institution, public or private, does a better job of reaching people who have been left behind in today’s economy, have failed to reach their potential in the city’s public school system or who
simply need help navigating an increasingly complex world.”

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