Queens Libraries Spared Closure Under Budget Deal

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on June 26, 2012 1:18pm 

Queens residents attended many rallies protesting the proposed cuts.
Queens residents attended many rallies protesting the proposed cuts.
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Queens Library

LONG ISLAND CITY — Some 18 Queens Library branches that were slated to close and hundreds of employees were spared the ax under a budget agreement between the Bloomberg administration and the City Council that restored most of the proposed cuts.

"Layoffs have been averted. Every library in every community will remain open at least five days a week," said Thomas W. Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library.

Some 2.3 million residents rely on Queens branches for computer access, English classes or assistance with job hunting, library officials said.

The Bloomberg administration had proposed cutting $26.7 million for the next fiscal year — about 31 percent less than this year — from the Queens Library budget.

The cuts, if enacted, would have closed a third of the Queens Library’s 62 branches and 600 library staffers would have lost their jobs.

In addition to the 18 libraries that would have been shuttered, 30 other Queens branches would have been open only two or three days per week, library officials said.

More than 85,000 people signed petitions, wrote postcards and attended rallies over the past few months to protest the proposed cuts, Queens Library officials said.

“That tremendous outpouring of support meant a great deal to us and demonstrated the importance of libraries in Queens communities," Galante said.

The library will nevertheless lose up to $2 million in funding and "will continue a hiring freeze" that has been in effect since 2008, said Joanne King, communications director for the Queens Library system. She also said the "book budget won’t be as robust as we would like."

The exact cut to the Queens Library budget is unclear, but will be finalized by the end of the week.

The final city budget deal restored nearly $90 million, of a proposed $96 million cut, to public libraries citywide.

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