Ex-BP Marshall urges prudence in Queens Library changes

I am writing to echo the Queens Courier editorial which highlights the effective leadership of Queens Library President & CEO Tom Galante and its caution against a rush to judgment regarding the Library.

Over the past several weeks, I have been troubled by the assault on the reputation of this vital institution. Serious questions have been raised which deserve and are receiving careful evaluation. However, I am also troubled by the rush to judgment and the hurried changes to a library system that has served our borough with distinction.

As a former Borough President and the first Director of the Langston Hughes Library I can attest that Queens libraries are the heart and soul of their communities. With record level assistance from my tenure as Borough President, our library branches have expanded to help keep pace with the demands of our growing and diverse population. Last year, more than 12 million visits were made to the Library; more than 17.5 million items were circulated; and 7.5 million questions were asked and answered by library professionals.

The value to the community that the library provides is not in question; innovations including state of the art digital access and job search programs only underscore the increased relevance of our library every single day.

The Queens Library continues to receive national recognition as a model of excellence. This year, it has received the prestigious American Library Association Library of the Future Award. This recognition did not happen by accident. It was earned by the visionary leadership of a dedicated Board of Trustees, professional library management and hardworking staff.

Every responsible organization must evolve to ensure efficiency and accountability. Those entrusted with expending tax dollars must be doubly vigilant; must be transparent and must continually improve in the interest of good governance and accountability. That is why I fully support the Library Board of Trustees’ thoughtful process that has resulted in a host
of enacted reforms.

At the same time, independence is a central premise of every free public library. Every year, people come to this country for freedom of thought and information to better their lives. Where do so many of those people make their first stop? Queens and the Queens Library! I urge the Library Board of Trustees to continue to uphold the independence of the library while taking prudent reforms that will enhance and protect its services for future generations.

Helen Marshall

More from Around New York