OpEd: Queens Library is tops for families

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com |

BOROS; Queens Library Cyber Center #1

Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO, Queens Library

By Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO, Queens Library

Families rely on Queens Library to provide a safe, intellectually stimulating place for their children to learn, create and interact with one another for many great reasons. The offerings are better than ever.

Queens Library hosts positive, free programs to engage children and youth every day of the week — 152, in fact, in the coming week alone. These include picture-book and storytelling sessions, sing-alongs, arts and crafts programs, a presentation about bugs as pets, ping-pong, board games, and a “Jeopardy” competition.

Some of these occur on weekends; many are scheduled right after school hours end. We offer homework help to students, reading clubs, even a spelling bee. Our “Mad Science” series lets kids experience science up close and personal with programs on slime, the three states of matter, and optical illusions. All of these activities occur in well-maintained spaces staffed with skilled personnel. All of these activities occur in well-maintained spaces staffed with skilled personnel.

Queens Library offers self-esteem workshops for children and teens, such as an upcoming weekly discussion forum that informs girls ages nine and older about important life skills and healthy development choices. Topics include school success, conflict management, goal setting and financial literacy. The girls will learn positive communication skills and have an opportunity to participate in activities designed to boost their self-esteem and foster positive new friendships.

The Library’s focus on welcoming and engaging children goes beyond programming. A year ago, we opened the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica. The 14,000-square-foot facility is the only public library in the U.S. to incorporate interactive museum exhibits into a traditional reading-rich library environment and the only free children’s educational destination in New York City with a special emphasis on science, technology, math and engineering.

This cutting-edge children’s facility, which boasts tabletop exhibits designed in partnership with San Francisco’s Exploratorium, has been welcoming young people at a pace of nearly 7,000 a week, hosting more than 384,000 people since it opened in July 2011. Last week, it was honored by the Municipal Art Society, winning its Neighborhood Catalyst Award.

Queens Library also offers the Library for Teens, a 3,000-square-foot former retail store in Far Rockaway, open to young people ages 12 to 19. Staffed by youth counselors, it is stocked with magazines, graphic novels, video games, 40 computers, test-prep materials — even a recording studio. This facility won the 2010 Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award, a prestigious statewide honor. A Teen Center with computer games, a collaborative work area and a quiet room is also coming soon to the Central Library in Jamaica.

Queens Library is constantly looking for ways to make our customers safer, in the library and outside of it, particularly in the case of the most vulnerable members of the community. Our Best Out of School Time program was born out of a mandate to provide, safe, academically-driven havens for children between the end of the school day and the end of the workday. We employ homework help monitors and activity assistants specifically for that purpose.

Lawmakers have been discussing proposals to make libraries even stronger and safer. We are in support of legislation that would add children’s rooms in libraries to the list of places off-limits to registered sex offenders. This would give law enforcement a powerful tool with which to protect the innocent, while also allowing the library to remain true to its mission of providing public access to information.

As a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities to this diverse borough of 2.3 million people, Queens Library will always be an enriching, welcoming place for all minds to grow.