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Despite drop in money, library attendance is higher than ever

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any (Credit: Rose Main Reading Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Charles Eckert))

Even funding cuts can't keep the library down.

The New York Public Library has seen a spike of 40% in program attendance and a nearly 60% increase in circulation over the last year decade, despite an 8% cut in city funding, according to a recent report from the Center for an Urban Future.

In the last year alone, attendance at the NYPL jumped more than 700,000 to a record 18,211,405, the library said, which could be attributed to increased programming, renovated branches, more tourism and new higher-quality exhibitions, NYPL spokeswoman Angela Montefinise said.

"During fiscal year 2012 we had over 10,000 extra programs and we targeted them better, (and) our program attendance has swelled by more than 200,000 during that period," Montefinise said, adding that recent renovations at the branches "continued to attract more patrons than ever before."

NYPL President Tony Marx said the study showed that libraries "are an essential and incomparable part of the city's educational infrastructure."

"The free social and educational services that we provide are needed now more than ever and are critical to the success of our communities," Marx said.

Indeed, overall library usage - not only of renting books, but other services - has increased as budgets decline. Computer sessions at public libraries, for example, rose to 9.3 million from 5.8 million from 2007 to 2011, at funding dropped nearly 70 million over roughly the same period. Likewise, e-book checkouts rose nearly 179% from 2011 to 2012, according to the Center's study.

Kathy Johns, 37, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is a regular at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building - the NYPL's branch near Bryant Park - because she's enticed by the variety of services available.

"I'm always in the library," Johns said. "When I come home after work I won't have anything to do, so I want to read, to learn. I also rent movies ... (and use) the internet," she said.

Francesca Camagni, 23, of midtown, said the library is just a great place to be.

"I come here to study because I like the atmosphere," she said. "It's like Harry Potter in Hogwarts or something."

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