Queens Library officials make big push for overdue upgrades

By Eric Jankiewicz

Queens Library has unveiled two new mobile libraries at a time when the borough’s public library network is pushing the city to increase funding for programs and branches that are underfunded, according to Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s interim president and coordinator.

“We’re here today to show the value of libraries,” Quinn-Carey said, speaking at Queens Museum Tuesday as two new mobile libraries were unveiled. For years, there has only been one mobile library trekking across the borough.

And even though they will now have these new mobile libraries, service will be limited because of a lack of resources.

She continued, “We need to increase our workforce to offer a more robust schedule.”

Quinn-Carey said the library is asking the city for $65 million—what its budget was before the city slashed it in 2008. Soon after the budget reduction, 200 employees had to be laid off and the hours of operations had to be reduced for all of the borough’s branches.

“That means you’re limiting computer access, ESL class, job assistance and a lot more because now we can’t have the libraries open as much,” said Joanne King, a spokeswoman for Queens Library. “You can have the most wonderful programs in the world, but if you’re not open it doesn’t matter.”

The extra money would also go towards revitalizing other services that are underfunded and in danger of being closed. One of the library’s most successful projects is a new pre-K program aimed at helping a group of students that has become a big focus of interest for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city. In the absence of city funding, Borough President Melinda Katz earmarked $13 million from the capital budget to continue to fund library activities like the universal pre-K program.

This month at the Woodhaven library, the first class will graduate and in the fall new classes will be created with the money. But other parts of the library’s system have become atrophied.

“The time has come for us to step up to the plate and take care of the Rego Park library,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6. “They service such a large crowd. People don’t just go into a library to get a book anymore.”

Rego Park’s library, Gulluscio said, needs more and better computers along with a general tech upgrade.

The branch is small and has long outgrown its current space, Gulluscio said. Over the years, he has pushed city officials, along with elected officials, to invest more in the branch for upgrades and expansions.

Quinn-Carey said the Rego Park library is her top priority and if she receives more funding from the city, the branch would be a top candidate for capital funding. The City Council and mayor are currently negotiating the budget for the three library systems in New York City and they will reveal the results by the end of June.