Thousands of glossy fliers packed with color photographs of elected officials that were paid for by the Queens Library are drawing criticism from those who say the public library system should be using its limited resources to buy books and pay librarians, not to promote politicians.
The four-page fliers distributed earlier this month thank Mayor Bloomberg; the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, and 17 other council members for restoring funding for six-day library service in the city's budget this year. Of the library's 16,000 fliers, 9,000 were mailed to library supporters. The rest were spread out among library branches.
Sensitivity to the use of public funds to promote elected officials is high at City Hall, with the council approving a new set of rules last month barring members from using public funds to purchase self-promoting advertisements. The change occurred after a report from an advocacy group found council members spent $927,507 in public funding on advertisements during a five-and-a-half-year stretch between July 2001 and December 2006.
Council members still are permitted to use public funds to purchase sidewalk garbage cans for their districts bearing their names, although there have been calls for the practice to stop.
The executive director of Citizens Union, Richard Dadey, said that when compared to other newsletters thanking donors or elected officials for their work, the Queens Library flier "takes the cake."
It features photographs of every council member from Queens, a council member who represents parts of Brooklyn, Diana Reyna, and the chairmen of the council committees overseeing libraries, Domenic Recchia and Vincent Gentile.
"It goes beyond what is necessary," Mr. Dadey said yesterday. "This is definitely more than what is appropriate."
A spokeswoman for the library, Joanne King, defended the fliers and said they were designed to alert residents that libraries now are open six days a week.
The flier's headline makes that point clear, but the text on the publication does not give readers any specific information about library hours, nor does it include a phone number to call for more information. It does list the library's Web site.
Ms. King would not say how much the library paid for the production and dissemination of the fliers, but cost estimates from printing companies and the United States Postal Service show that the total cost could have been around $7,000.
"The library is thanking the City Council, the mayor, and speaker's office for restoring six-day service," she said. "We need to let library users know who is supporting their needs."
The Queens library is a non-profit organization that receives 86% of its funding from the city and between 8% and 10% of its budget from the state and federal government, Ms. King said. The rest comes from private donations and grants.
A council member whose photograph is included in the flier, Tony Avella, said he thought the flier was "really over the top" and made him uneasy.
He said the council is always fighting for more money for the Queens Library and he didn't think it would help the library's cause to spend its money on a flier promoting elected officials.
He said future publications like this should be funded by the private Queens Library Foundation and not with public money.
Mr. Gentile, the chairman of the Libraries Committee, said the flier shouldn't raise any red flags.
"That's a general course of business to say thank you to someone who worked hard to advocate for your system," he said. "Trying to suggest that it's something more than that is going really far afield."
Another council member whose photograph appears in the flier, John Liu, said he thought it was important to let people know that six-day library service is up and running, but added that he doesn't "know if it takes all this space to do that."
The Brooklyn Public Library and the New York Public Library, which runs libraries in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, did not produce materials solely to thank elected officials for working to restore six-day library service, library representatives said.
The New York Public Library included a one-paragraph item about the six-day service in its new magazine, Bookmark, along with a photograph of Ms. Quinn at the Chatham Square Library in Chinatown and sent out similar information in an e-mail newsletter, a spokesman for the library said.
At the bottom of the New York Public Library's promotional materials highlighting the new service, there is a credit line acknowledging the work of officials at City Hall.
The director of the Brooklyn Public Library devoted one paragraph in a four-paragraph message to thanking elected officials for the restored service in the library's quarterly publication this fall.
A spokeswoman for the library, Stefanie Arck, said she thought elected officials would have been acknowledged in an e-mail newsletter as well.
The Brooklyn library sent handwritten thank you letters to Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Quinn, and the council members from Brooklyn, she said.