‘Welcome back’: Officials celebrate long-awaited reopening of Flushing Library

Flushing Library
(From l. to r.) Flushing Library Director Yang Zeng, Chief Librarian Nick Buron, QPL Chief Operating Officer Sung Mo Kim, Councilwoman Sandra Ung, QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Terri Thomson, QPL Chief of Staff Gitte Peng and Phil Ballman from the Borough President’s Office. (Photo courtesy of Ung’s office)

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Councilwoman Sandra Ung joined Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott on Monday, April 25, to welcome patrons back to Flushing Library for in-person service after the branch was closed for two years

“This is a great day for the Flushing community,” Ung said. “This library is so much more than a place to check out books. It hosts community events for families, provides a safe place for teens to gather after school and keeps our seniors connected. For the many local residents who have limited English proficiency, the Flushing Library is often where they learn what is going on in their community.”

Flushing Library
Flushing Library Director Yang Zeng gives Councilwoman Sandra Ung an update on some of the new services at the branch. (Photo courtesy of Ung’s office)

Flushing Library, located at 41-17 Main St., is the busiest library in the nation. After closing in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Flushing Library reopened in July 2020 for staff to process requests for books and other materials. It offered to-go service from November 2020 until March 2021, when the city began using it as a free COVID-19 vaccination site. 

Although Flushing became one of the city’s most visited vaccination locations, the city had to stop administering shots inside the branch in mid-June 2021 because the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system had failed. However, the city continued to use the site for storage to support the vaccination effort for several months. 

The HVAC system breakdown came at roughly the same time as a previously planned closure of the library for the construction of a second elevator and the renovation of the existing elevator. Work on this project started in December of 2021. The second elevator is scheduled for completion in April of 2023, at which point the current elevator will be closed and refurbished. Both elevators should be operational by December of 2023.

In order to reopen the library to the public, QPL officials agreed to complete the bulk of the work on the elevators at night, so the building can be open during the day. The current HVAC system will still heat the building, while a temporary chiller sitting on a trailer along Kissena Avenue will cool the library. A new permanent HVAC system will be installed within the next two years. 

Flushing Library is a vital community resource and the first stop for many immigrants. In  2019, it drew 1.7 million visitors, circulated 1 million items and brought in 184,000 program attendees, who participated in its English classes, GED prep courses, technology workshops, job readiness classes and a number of other programs. Many of its classes and cultural programming continued virtually throughout the pandemic. 

“In fact, all of the shelves on the third floor of the library contain materials in languages other than English, so this branch doesn’t just serve Flushing residents; it’s a resource for the diverse immigrant communities across the borough,” Ung said. “I’m so pleased that it is finally open to the public again.” 

Ung thanked Walcott and his team for keeping their promise to reopen the library before the end of the month. 

“I’m sure in no time this will again be the busiest library in the country,” Ung said. 

Richards tweeted, “With open arms, we say welcome back, Flushing! After a long two-year closure, the QPLNYC’s Flushing Library — one of the busiest in the country — is officially open and ready to serve families from Flushing and beyond again. Nowhere else I’d rather be to start my morning.” 

The Flushing Library will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The Adult Learning Center (ALC) also reopened on Monday with classes for the public. The ALC hours will be Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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