When I agreed to join the Board of Trustees of Queens Library, I did so out of a sincere desire to serve the community. Trustees are volunteers. Trustees spend many hours of our own time attending meetings, doing research, and helping to steer the library for future generations. I wanted to maximize my volunteer hours by doing the most good for the most people in my community, and I cannot think of an organization that makes a bigger impact than Queens Library.
During the past 10 years, Queens Library has been a force for immeasurable good. More than 128 million people have visited their community libraries during that time. They have borrowed well over 200 million books and videos. Every library building in every community has been upgraded or is in the pipeline to be upgraded. Millions and millions have used the library’s customer-use computers. Throughout an unrelenting series of budget cuts, the hard-working staff stretched their resources and every library stayed open at least five days a week, including during the critical after school hours every Monday to Friday. Based on accepted national estimates, this means that Queens Library delivered $6 billion worth of goods and services. That’s “billion” with a “b.” Queens Library has won every major industry award for achievement and innovation, from the National Award for Library Service to Library of the Year.
Queens Library is not about statistics. It is about people. In Long Island City, toddlers gather for story time, while their parents chat. In Corona, every seat is filled every day; adults read newspapers in English and Spanish and talk with their neighbors and parents accompany children for homework help. In Far Rockaway, library users take advantage of job search assistance and computer training. In Jamaica, new Bengali immigrants attend workshops in their own language to teach them how to sew, so they can start small home businesses. In Elmhurst, a nursing student is looking for material to help pass the licensing exams. Queens Library supports the community with a broad range of programs and services.
Doing it all, every day, takes astute management. Queens Library is a very large, complex organization. I am proud to be a member of the library board, but the real credit goes to the 1,700 hard-working library staff who serve the public every day. A huge “thank you” to the President and CEO Tom Galante, who has devoted his career to enriching lives. Every not-for-profit would do well to take a page from his book.
Joseph R. Ficalora is President and Chief Executive Officer, New York Community Bancorp and a member of the Board of Trustees of Queens Library.