Queens Library turns 100 - seeks to open more hours

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Queens Library could become one of the highest circulating library systems in the world, officials believe. However, to do so, they say, would require more branches in the borough to be open on the weekends, and therefore more funding - $11.3 million to be exact.
Library officials are requesting that the City Council, which allocates 80 percent of the library system’s operating costs; give more money to the City’s three systems - New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library, which is touted as the busiest in the nation - so that each could add hours and Saturday service. To fund the project entirely, the Council would need to give $42.7 million citywide.
“If we had that funding, three to four months from now, we could start adding hours,” said Queens Library Executive Director Tom Galante, at a centennial bash for the Queens Library system on Tuesday, April 17. “It would take six to nine months to implement the whole thing … And within a year, we’d have it all sorted out.”
In Fiscal Year 2006, the City Council gave more than $80 million to Queens Library to help pay for operating costs. In addition, the New York State legislature allocated more than $7 million to Queens Library, which boasts more than 6.8 million items in its collections.
Currently six libraries are open on Sundays, and 16 on Saturdays out of 63 branches borough wide. With the funding, library officials would have enough to keep all branches open on Saturdays and at least one in each City Council district open on Sundays.
“It’s not so much about being open six days, as it is about reaching everyone,” Galante said.
“Monday to Friday is essential to catch every child after school,” Galante said, explaining when given the choice, officials opted to stay open late in accordance with after-school hours for students rather than open on the weekends for working adults. But now, they hope to not have to choose one type of patron over another.
“Libraries need to be open on the weekend, for people who can’t go to the library during the week,” said Dr. Lenore R. Gall, a member of the Queens Library Board of Trustees.
“A lot of people in the borough want to grow, want to learn,” Galante said. “And that’s what we are all about, enriching life.”
In his 20 years with Queens Library, Galante remembered when the system bumped up hours and staffing in 1994, putting most of the borough’s branches on a five-day schedule, and a few open six days per week. The transition, Galante said, went smoothly.
At that time, Queens Library added 150 new staff members, and if the switch is made to six- and seven-day service, about 200 new employees will be needed.
Galante said keeping libraries open during the weekends would be the perfect way to celebrate Queens Library’s 100th anniversary.
“We’re proud to be one of the very few organizations that can look back on more than a century of service and honestly say, ‘people in Queens depend on us more now than they did a century ago.’ A hundred years from now, people in Queens will still rely on their library for education, information and recreation,” Galante said.
Continuing the celebration of Queens Library’s 100th anniversary, officials planted a time capsule at the Queens Village branch, located at 94-11 217th Street, on Wednesday, April 25.
One hundred years from now, library goers will be able to dig up the capsule and see, “The Way We Were in 2007” by looking at items like decorated T-shirts, team jerseys, CD liners, DVD cases, maps, MetroCards, photo collages, and the favorite snacks of children all over Queens.
Fifth graders from Our Lady of Lourdes School in Queens Village put in a school uniform, information about the school, and religious artifacts. A red clown nose and a sleigh bell to ring while reading a popular children’s book, The Polar Express, were also sealed inside the two steel trunks with the other goods.