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Third of Queens Libraries Would Close Under 'Devastating' Budget Cuts

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, chairman of the  Council's Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, led the rally on Thurs., May 31, 2012.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, chairman of the Council's Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, led the rally on Thurs., May 31, 2012.
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Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

CITY HALL — The book might be closing on the Queens Library system.

More than 100 residents and elected officials rallied against a series of "devastating" cuts proposed in the Bloomberg administration’s budget for fiscal year 2013 that would shutter nearly a third of the library's 62 branches and leave the borough with only one branch open on Saturdays, library representatives said.

If the cuts are enacted, the Queens Library stands to lose $26.7 million next fiscal year — about 31 percent less than the budget for fiscal year 2012 and 42 percent less than 2008.

“If this budget comes to pass, the consequences will be devastating across the entire system,” said Joanne King, communication director for the Queens Library system. “Every library in the borough will be affected.”

Representatives for the library said the cuts would bring reductions in library services to unthinkable levels.

Apart from 18 libraries that would close in the borough, 30 other Queens branches would have to close four or five days per week.

No branch in Queens would be open on Sundays, and only one would serve residents on Saturdays, according to library officials.

Right now, all of the branches are open at least five days a week, and 18 of them are also open on Saturday. The central library in Jamaica is open on Sundays, as well.

Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, chairmain of the Council's Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee who led Thursday's rally, called the cuts “dead wrong.”

"New York City deserves a budget that invests in its libraries, not one that slashes much-needed funding from easily accessible educational, cultural and social programming,” Van Bramer said.

“By cutting this funding now, at time when all city residents' budgets are tight, the proposed budget will deprive millions of people of affordable programming that has been established to uplift our local communities. We cannot allow this to happen."

According to statistics provided by the library, the cuts would mean 6 million fewer library visits and 700,000 fewer books purchased. More than 600 library employees could lose their jobs.

Some 2.3 million residents relying on Queens branches would have less access to computers, English classes or assistance with job seeking, the library said.

Until the numbers are final, the Queens Library said it would not designate which particular branches are in jeopardy of closing.

Two other New York library systems — the Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library — are also facing significant cuts. In total, city’s libraries could lose a whopping $100 million.

The funding loss would be effective on July 1, at the beginning of the fiscal year.