By Bill Parry
Elected officials joined the Queens Library interim president and dozens of parents in a call for more library funding at a Tuesday rally outside the Jackson Heights branch. Libraries across the city are advocating for an increase in operating expenses of $65 million, and full funding of capital needs of $1.4 billion citywide over ten years.
The increased operating expenses would be used to hire more than 200 library staff, to keep libraries in every community open at least six days a week, and to increase programs and library materials that are available to library customers. Queens Library in Jackson Heights is one of the most heavily used libraries in Queens, crowded at every hour with parents and students, English learners and others.
“Our public libraries are sanctuaries for our children and learning centers for adults,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “I strongly urge Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council speaker to provide an additional $65 million in funding to have all our libraries open six days a week. We all use our libraries and it is very important to keep investing in them so we have state-of-the-art facilities for our community.”
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) called libraries the “heart of our community” that serves many purposes. ““They provide cultural programming, access to the Internet, and critical services like ESL and financial literacy classes, which are a lifeline for immigrants and New Yorkers living in underserved communities,” he said.
Queens Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey added, “We’ve had to turn away over a thousand people from our ESOL (language) classes because we just didn’t have enough resources.”
Meanwhile, three Queens Library branches won awards and monetary prizes at this year’s NYC Neighborhood Library Awards, celebrating the best branches citywide. The Langston Hughes Library in Corona was declared one of five grand prize winners and received $20,000 in award money. The Cambria Heights and Sunnyside libraries were declared runner-ups by a panel of judges, each receiving $10,000.
The contest was funded by the Revson Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr