Ten-year-old Darius Barnes was upset when he learned his local Laurelton library might be closing.
“I didn’t want it to close,” he said. “The library has helped me.”
Barnes goes to the library after school, where he has been able to do homework and projects, as well as take courses in Mandarin with the site’s manager, Dave Wang.
When the budget for the 2014 Fiscal Year was initially proposed, library funding was set for across-the-board cuts. Ultimately, the cuts put the Rosedale and Laurelton libraries at risk of closure. The community and the City Council responded and were able to take the cuts out of the budget altogether.
Additionally, Councilmember Donovan Richards allocated nearly $3 million in extra funding to expand his district’s libraries.
“This library is my second home,” said Ruth Wright, 11, at the Laurelton site.
Wright, just as Barnes, visits the library after school and said not only has it given her a place to do homework, but also has given her the opportunity to meet new friends.
“Cutting funding to our libraries is the same as cutting funding to our youth,” Richards said.
Libraries are the central parts of the neighborhoods, he said, and these allocated funds will kick off a long-term project of expanding and improving the Laurelton, Rosedale and Rockaway libraries.
“Learning is the key. That’s what this library is about,” said Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton. “This is what we need in our community.”
Richards’ goal is to allocate $3 million a year for district libraries. He said the Rosedale library will take $7 million to fully expand and complete and $11 million for Laurelton.
“The idea is to give young adults a safe place where they can congregate and grow, with the latest technologies – this gives them a reason to stay in the libraries and off the streets,” he said.