hile The New York Public Library, like most other organizations, has weathered the worst of the extraordinary financial downturn of late 2008, the aftermath and nascent recovery continue to pose challenges. Library operating revenues for the year ended June 30, 2010, were down $19 million, or 7%, from the prior fiscal year due to declines in public funding, private donations, and investment income. Furthermore, the City has indicated it will reduce the Library's revenue even more for the current fiscal year and, likely for the year beginning July 1, 2011.
Against this dreary fiscal backdrop, Library staff has responded admirably, demonstrating resilience, even cheerfulness, and a commitment to continuing to improve service to our users. As shown in the chart below, despite a discouraging arc of decline in City funding over the past four fiscal years, virtually every metric of service provided, and user demand, has shown significant increases:
The Library is understandably proud of these achievements, but it is also true that the Library cannot continue to provide greater service with fewer resources. Fortunately, thanks to the success of the Library's Campaign and improved investment results, its endowment value has rebounded to approximately $811 million as of March 31, 2011, from a low of $490 million following the 2008 financial crisis. Private donations have also begun to rise again as the economy recovers. Although the fiscal outlook for the City remains gloomy, it is as clear as ever that New Yorkers love their libraries — so longer-term, we can be optimistic that City funding will rebound too.
David G. Offensend