OP-ED: Speak Up For Queens Library

Access to public library service is being threatened with a 31% proposed City budget cut. Eighteen community libraries in Queens are in danger of being closed altogether and nearly half of community libraries could be closed four or five days every week. We can’t let this happen. We need every voice to speak up to restore the proposed budget cut. Write to Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn and your City Council Member. Go to www.savequeenslibrary.org and sign the electronic petition. Tell them that you want, need and support public library service.

This will be the fifth consecutive year of serious proposed reductions in the City budget. We have benefited from an enormous outpouring of support from the community. Even though library supporters in City Hall and the City Council made libraries a priority, library funding was been reduced 15% over the past four years due to very difficult economic times. It could have been much more given the cuts that were first proposed. But we now face the worst scenario ever. A further reduction of 31% would be devastating to the more than 40,000 people who rely
upon library services every day.

Queens Library lends over 70,000 books and videos every day we are open. Closing
the doors is unconscionable. And today’s libraries do so much more than lend books to support education and the people in this great borough. Public libraries are community hubs, providing access to so many kinds of information and services. Last week, Queens Library’s Job Information Center had a visit from a library customer. She wanted to apply for a job as a maid at one of the large hotels in Manhattan. She was asked to submit a job application online with her resume attached. She did not know how to write a resume. She did not have a computer at home and did not know how to apply online. She came to the only place she could think of that would assist – her public library.

This afternoon, 10,000 students will visit public libraries in Queens after school. They will settle into school work. Attendance has skyrocketed in the past year or two. Some need help with a project. Some need to use computers. Some have parents who are at work and send them to the library because it is safe, accessible and supervised. If the library were closed, where would they go? Every weekday morning, Queens Libraries are filled with smiling young children on class visits, experiencing the wonder of reading for the first time. They will carry that love of learning throughout their lives. By the evening, adults fill the seats. Many are studying to take a professional exam or their GEDs. Others are working to improve their English fluency. Some are simply enjoying a good book or a music program. What is the alternative if the library cannot remain open?

The need for library services is on the rise; and we know there are even more people who need them. Legislation recently proposed by City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer will help us reach the City’s most vulnerable. This expansion of the Library Card Act will deliver information about library services and cards to people seeking City services. A library card is a passport to nearly everything you need to enrich your life. The library doors must remain open in order for libraries to provide the programs and services the City Council deems so

This is what is at stake: if you allow Queens Library’s budget to be cut 31%, next year 1.35 million of your neighbors would not have access to free public-use computer sessions. 1.75 million children would be unable to come to the library after school. There would be 6 million fewer library visits. Queens Library would be unable to purchase 700,000 books. 26,000 job seekers would be barred from job search assistance, resume-writing help and interview skills assistance. The list goes on and on. The consequences are unthinkable.

Elected officials have struggled with tough choices in the past. There has been a lot of pain and not enough revenue. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, libraries were considered so important that they remained open seven days a week. What was true then is even more true now.

Please keep every library open in every community. Speak up for Queens Library.
Write to your City elected officials. Go to www.savequeenslibrary.org.

By Thomas W. Galante, President & CEO, Queens LIbrary


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