Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of Queens Library, testified this week before the New York City Council Finance Committee jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Subcommittee on Libraries on the library’s capital funding needs.
“Right now, our libraries are not able to give New Yorkers the full benefit of what we have to offer. The lack of reliable capital budget support has limited our ability to provide the level of services we know is needed and could deliver if our basic capital needs were met in a way that allows us to plan effectively,” said Quinn-Carey.
She shared updated figures from the Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries.” According to this report, in the five boroughs, there is more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs, with the Queens portion exceeding $400 million. The average branch library is 61 years old, with a full quarter of the branches built over a century ago.
In addition, New York public libraries are heavily used. According to Quinn-Carey, more than 35 million people visited their public library last year, creating a great deal of wear and tear. The vast majority of these libraries aren’t configured to meet the demands of the digital age—with too few electrical outlets, too little space for classes, or no spaces for individuals working on laptop computers.
“As you know, many of the city’s libraries are simply too small,” said Quinn-Carey in her address to the Finance Committee. “In Queens, 41 of our 65 service locations are less than 10,000 square feet. It is impossible to squeeze full-service library programming, classes and collections into these spaces.”
She went on to explain that demands on and for library space will continue to grow. The City projects that the population of Queens will increase by more than 300,000 people by the year 2030.
“Areas in Queens that have traditionally been industrial space are now becoming newly residential, and there is no library nearby. We need to serve those new communities,” she said.
Over a ten-year period from 2016 to 2025, Queens Library seeks to enhance and enrich its library infrastructure by making capital improvements to 60 of its library locations, allocating over $418 million over the course of the plan. This will require approximately $41 million in capital funding per year. The plan includes two new libraries in emerging communities; six replacement buildings; four building expansions; indoor and outdoor renovations; new heating and cooling systems, and other environmentally-friendly innovations; and expanding technology services. An average of $24 million a year will be spent on the development of building expansions, replacements, and new facilities; $17 million a year will be spent on necessary reconstruction and ensuring a state of good repair; and $25 million over ten years will be allocated for technology.
By Forum Staff