Queens Public Library immigration specialist wins prestigious national ‘I Love My Librarian’ award

Queens Public Library’s New Americans Program assistant director Freg Gitner is recognized for providing outstanding service to asylum seekers and immigrants in Queens.
Photo courtesy of the Queens Public Library

The American Library Association has honored Fred Gitner, the assistant director of Queens Public Library’s New Americans Program, with a coveted “I Love My Librarian Award” for his outstanding service to the public, specifically to asylum seekers and immigrants across the borough.

Gitner, 72, was one of 10 honorees nationwide selected from a pool of 1,400 nominees chosen by library patrons for their efforts to promote literacy, expand access to technology, support mental health needs as well as diversity and inclusion in their communities.

At Queens Public Library, Gitner has driven positive social change for new Americans for nearly three decades, connecting them to education opportunities and resources they need to successfully acclimate to life in a new city and in a new country. For much of the last year, Gitner and his team have been instrumental in assisting the surging migrant population in Queens.

“I am so honored to be recognized by my peers for the work we do every day to ensure that newcomers to Queens have the resources and services to help them adapt successfully to life in a new country and the opportunity to share their culture with the community-at-large in one of the most diverse areas in the world,” Gitner said.

Gitner’s mentoring of current and aspiring librarians is a key focus to his efforts to increase the influence of the library. He also coordinates Queens Public Library’s international partnerships program which, along with facilitating the exchange of knowledge and library materials in other languages, offers opportunities for Library and Information Science students from abroad to participate in fieldwork assignments with QPL.

“As we welcome people from all over the world into our libraries, Fred serves as chief ambassador,” Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said. “He and his team are deeply committed to assisting asylum seekers and immigrants coming through our doors, providing the support and resources they need to adjust to their lives in New York City.”

Gitner has been Assistant Director of New Initiatives and Partnership Liaison for the New Americans Program at QPL since 2015, after having served since 1996 in various administrative positions in the New Americans Program and International Relations.

From “New Americans Corners” inside Queens Public Library branches filled with materials and a vast array of online resources to implementing live phone interpretation services in more than 240 languages at every QPL branch, Gitner’s team and the new Americans Program have been central to improving services for a borough where half the residents were born outside the U.S.

“Fred is always on the go and never misses a day to involve our library in helping new immigrants in our neighborhoods,” one nominator wrote. “It is truly amazing how one man can make a beautiful difference in the lives of new immigrants, their families, and his fellow library professionals.”

The awards, established in 2008 and sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and administered in partnership with The New York Public Library, recognizes librarians nationwide. This year’s award recipients include three academic librarians, four public librarians and three school librarians. Each of the winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

“While much of the national conversation surrounding libraries has fixated on book censorship, and as library workers across the U.S. continue to face historic levels of intimidation and harassment, librarians’ efforts to empower their patrons and provide vital services for their communities shines a spotlight on the enduring value of libraries in our society,” American Library Association President Emily Drabinski said. “The inspiring stories of this year’s I Love My Librarian Award honorees demonstrate the positive impact librarians have on the lives of those they serve each day.”