Thursday, May 27, 2010

Queens Library Rally Rocks City Hall

Faced with the prospect of closing 14 local branches, reducing hours at an additional 34 locations and laying off as many as 400 employees, Queens Library officials and City Council members rallied Tuesday outside City Hall to draw attention to the drastic budget cuts the system is facing.

The proposed city budget currently includes about $17 million in budget cuts for Queens Library, which boasts the highest circulation of any library in the nation. As a result, more than 300 employees have already received notices that their jobs might be eliminated in August, and additional cuts are possible, depending on the outcome of the overdue state budget.

In an effort to inform the public of the impending cuts, and to convince Council members to work to help restore funding, more than 400 Queens Library supporters, trustees, union members, residents and City Council members rallied on the steps of City Hall this week. The mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 would reduce funding to Queens Library by $16.9 million, on top of cuts sustained this past year.

In all, a total of $28.3 million in funding has been cut from Queens Library’s budget since 2008, when funding was provided to keep all libraries open on Saturdays. During this past year, funding cuts caused the closure of all community libraries on Sundays, and the library’s workforce has been reduced by 160 jobs through attrition. The proposed 2011 funding levels would be the lowest on record.

“Demand for library services continues to grow and grow,” said Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante at Tuesday’s rally. “It is an indication of how much people in Queens rely on Queens Library to be their lifeline to information, education, literacy, jobs and job readiness. We will continue to fight to save service and save jobs for the 50,000 people who use our libraries every day.”

City Council members in attendance included Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who chairs the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Dan Halloran (R-Bayside), Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Julissa Ferreras (East Elmhurst), Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and others.

“Libraries are an essential part of our communities,” said Van Bramer. “These educational havens provide vital resources during such pressing times – now more than ever New Yorkers need libraries.”

As a result of the proposed cuts, some 412 employees would be laid-off early in fiscal year 2011. Fourteen branches would close completely, and 34 would be closed four of five days a week. That would mean just twelve branches would be open five days a week, one would be open six days a week, and one branch would be open seven days a week. It would also result in deep reductions in books purchased, programs, building maintenance, furniture and needed equipment.

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