Tag Archives: Queens Library

Queens Library earns national awards while facing public scrutiny


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library

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Federal inquiries into the Queens Library and its CEO may be buzzing in the news, but the organization is making a case for why residents can still have a good read. 

The Library has received national recognitions recently for architecture and modern digital services.

The new $17.1 million Glen Oaks branch was named the 2013 Building of the Year by American-Architects.com, beating out structures from 50 other states because of its design and eco-friendly features.

The Queens Library, which services more than 866,000 active members, also received the American Library Association/Information Today, Inc. “Library of the Future” award for creating a customized interface and a management system so that Google tablets, which can be borrowed on library cards, are useful with or without Wi-Fi access.

The tablet’s interface is pre-loaded with helpful information on a range of topics, including children’s resources, immigration information, job search, language services and library courses. The award will be presented during the Library Association’s annual conference in June.

“Year after year, Queens Library is recognized nationally and globally as a leader in innovative library programs, services and spaces,” a spokesperson for the Library said. “The goal is always to find better ways to serve the community with lifelong learning opportunities from state-of-the-art libraries.”

Besides the honors, the Queens Library is gearing up to launch a new mobile app that will allow users to download free digital materials from their devices. The app will be available on both iOS and Android platforms. Also, the Library has been chosen as one of six organizations statewide to pilot online high school equivalency exams for adults.

Lately, complaints against the Library from elected officials have increased after new reports revealed President and CEO Thomas Galante’s nearly $392,000 salary, while many workers have been let go in recent years. Galante also spent nearly $140,000 to renovate his office, reports said.

FBI and Department of Investigation agents recently appeared at the Library to issue subpoenas for information, according to reports.

Library Board members The Courier contacted didn’t respond for comment.

“We have been requested to provide documents,” Library spokesperson Joanne King said. “Because of the inquiry, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on matters that are the subject of inquiry.”

The Library has hired an outside consultant, Hay Group, to study Galante’s salary and perks included, such as a reported $37,000 sports car and $2 million severance package.

Galante currently makes the most money of the city’s three library systems’ leaders, according to SeeThroughNY, which list how tax dollars are spent.

Anthony Marx, the current CEO of the New York Public Library (NYPL), which has branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, made $250,000 last year.

The previous CEO of the NYPL, Paul Le Clerc, made $711,114 in 2011. Linda Johnson, the CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, made $250,000 in 2013 as well.

Borough President Melinda Katz recently penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, asking him to suspend the ability of the Library to spend any funds on renovations until the issues are resolved.

“The Queens Library system is a first-rate institution that provides invaluable educational and cultural opportunities for the residents of this borough,” Katz said in the letter. “However, there is a troubling lack of oversight and understanding of the allocation of taxpayer funding.”

 

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Queens Library board hires consultant to probe CEO’s salary, contract


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The Queens Library has hired an outside consultant to probe its embattled CEO’s whopping $392,000 salary and perks, the nonprofit’s top executives said Monday.

“We need to absorb the information we get from the study, as a board,” said Board of Trustees Chair Gabriel Taussig. “We’re committed to doing these things expeditiously and thoughtfully.”

The board is paying Hay Group $25,000 for a one-time review of Queens Library President and CEO Tom Galante’s entire compensation package and contract terms, officials said. The library boss is embroiled in news reports that claim he spent nearly $140,000 on a private smoking deck and office renovations.

The controversy also includes Galante’s $392,000 salary, $2 million severance package and $140,000 annual income from his side job consulting for the Elmont Union Free School District on Long Island.

Hay Group, a global management consulting firm hired last week, will size up Galante’s job against other comparable organization heads, which could lead to new contract negotiations, said Jacqueline Arrington, chair of the board’s administrative committee.

The firm has less than 90 days to report back with its findings and another 30 days after that to hammer out a new contract, library spokesperson Joanne King said.

“Whatever the end result is will be fair, reasonable, equitable and competitive,” said Galante, who declined to comment on whether he would take a pay cut.

The chief executive — when he wasn’t touting the library’s achievements — defended claims against him.

He reiterated his right as a “workaholic” to engage in outside employment, saying he sometimes puts in 125 total hours a week from both gigs. And he only consults as an “independent contractor, not an employee” from either Elmont or his home, he said.

Galante added his $2 million severance package is not considered a “golden parachute” and is only given to him if he is fired without wrongdoing.

The high exit payout is because of an “evergreen” clause in his five-year contract, amended in 2012, that allows it to be renewed automatically every year, Galante said.

The board plans to ax the clause in future contracts, according to Taussig, who would not confirm if that included Galante’s.

The consultation study is the first in a series of new measures the board plans to take to restore public trust and ease discontent amongst Queens lawmakers, board members said during a Feb. 25 sit-down meeting with several Queens reporters.

Since reports surfaced, State Senator Tony Avella has asked Galante to resign. Other state legislators and Borough President Melinda Katz say they are committed to getting a bill passed that would require financial disclosure from top library executives.

An audit committee within the Board of Trustees is underway, Arrington said. The board will decide if there should be more oversight into the hiring of top level executives, she added.

“I don’t want people to lose sight of what Queens Public Library has done for this borough,” Arrington said.

 

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Op-ed: Cataloging Queens Library’s accomplishments


| oped@queenscourier.com

JOSEPH FICALORA

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.

 

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Queens Library space to open in Queens Center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

Shoppers will soon be able to take a break in between stores and visit the library.

Queens Center, located at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, has invited the Queens Library to open up a library space within the mall. It will be located adjacent to the food court and is expected to open in late spring.

“We are excited about bringing Queens Library to the Queens Center mall. It is an opportunity to reach even more people and familiarize them with everything Queens Library can do to enrich their lives,” said Queens Library’s Chief Operating Officer Bridget Quinn-Carey. “The library space at Queens Center mall will have books and reading material to engage people at the mall, or they can borrow and take books home. We will be hosting special programs as well.”

The library space, which will be Wi-Fi enabled, will include comfortable seating and offer a collection of popular books which people can sit down and read or borrow with their library cards. Laptops will be available to rent for use within the space and tablets may also be offered.

Free library card sign-up will be available at the location and there will be a schedule of promotional events in collaboration with other mall tenants  and programs, such as speakers, arts and crafts, kids’ educational entertainment and more. 

The space will also feature computer terminals to look up and request materials, order books  and research things to do in their neighborhoods. Full reference and referral services will be available by phone. 

 

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Rego Park group to host 3D printing challenge for students


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Rego Park Green Alliance

The Rego Park Green Alliance, a group that fosters art and technology in Queens, will host a 3D printing pilot contest for children on May 4 at P.S. 175.

Nearly 100 students between the third and sixth grade will learn how to use 3D printing applications and create their own designs for the competition.

“The 3D printing tool is very interesting, because it doesn’t just teach math and engineering. It also teaches art,”said Yvonne Shortt, executive director of the Rego Park Green Alliance.

The organization has been working with the Queens Library to teach students and adults how to use 3D printers since last year. Now they are taking it directly to schools.

The group trained teachers in several local public and private schools, which will educate their students about 3D printing and design for the pilot challenge.

The children are tasked to design play sets on the computer and use 3D printers at school or through the Alliance. The winning designs will be chosen from three categories: innovation, collaboration and presentation. The students can create play sets from any theme that they like, as long as it fits in a 6-by-6-by-6 inch box.

The challenge comes from the idea to teach kids about emerging technology and incite creativity.
Shortt and her group believe that by introducing 3D printers to children, which is relatively new technology, it will help parents learn more about it.

Also, after learning how to make their creations from scratch, students will value their toys and other items more.

“This little toy is not going to end up on the floor, because it would have taken about 10 hours to design,” Shortt said. “It creates value after making it by hand.”

 

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Glen Oaks Library branch up for national honor


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library

After reopening a few months ago, the Glen Oaks Library branch has received more than new books.

The new building, which cost $17.1 million and opened in September, has been the recipient of a few honors, including being a recent winner at the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s annual Building Awards on Thursday.

Now the Glen Oaks Library will represent New York State for 2013 Building of the Year by American-Architects.com. Voting will continue online until Jan. 31.

“We’ve contributed to public architecture of the city. This is a public project. It is for the people of the neighborhood,” said Scott Marble, co-founder of Marble Fairbanks, the architect firm that designed the building. “I feel like we are part of the legacy of great architecture in Queens.”

The new library branch was funded by the city and doubled the space of the previous building. With clear panels all around, it is flooded with natural light on every level.

The building is also very eco-friendly. It was certified Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), the second highest level for a standard of environmental sustainability by the U.S. Green Building Councils.

Click here for more information on Building of the Year award by American-Architects.com

 

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Community members share vision for Laurelton, Rosedale library upgrades


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Library

More room is coming to the Laurelton and Rosedale library branches and officials’ visions for the project is growing.

Councilmember Donovan Richards allocated $3 million for the two Queens Library reading spots to begin expansion and upgrade projects.

The Laurelton branch, currently 8,000 square feet, will double to 16,000 with the addition of a second floor.

“We’re really excited about that,” said Dave Wang, the Laurelton manager. “The community has a very high expectation and standard for the library. A lot of our residents depend on it.”

Wang hopes the additional space will allow the branch to offer more classes to the neighborhood; something that he said has been in demand.

“In Laurelton, there’s no community center. Everyone depends on the library,” he said.

Richards met with community members and library officials last week to discuss the visions for their respective branches.

“He’s been so supportive from the get-go,” said Joanne King of the Queens Library. “It’s really a wonderful thing for us to see.”

Roughly $1.7 million of Richards’ funds will get the Laurelton expansion off the ground, but $9.8 million is still needed for completion, according to library officials.

Rosedale will receive $1 million, but will still need $6.3 million, King said. The branch’s square footage will expand from 6,000 to 9,400.

Branch officials were able to share their hopes for teen and children spaces at last week’s meeting.

“This is only the beginning, but it’s a very big help,” Wang said.

 

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Queens Library to hold Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Calling all Wikipedia enthusiasts, long-time Queens residents and history lovers.

The Queens Library is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon at Jamaica’s Queens Library-Central, at 89-11 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, on December 6 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Through the event, the Queens Library hopes to better represent more of the prominent people and places in Queens history on Wikipedia, a widely-used online reference.

Anyone from Queens who would like to help is welcome to drop by at any point during the event. Participants are invited to bring photographs, letters or family records, which library staff can help scan.

The following topics are of special interest at the Edit-A-Thon: Richard George and the Beachside Bungalow Association; former Queens Councilmember Julia Harrison; Emil Lucev, Far Rockaway historian; photographer Frederick Weber; the Women’s Industrial Service League, an organization based in Far Rockaway; The Store Front Museum; local historian Robert Friedrich; photographer Eugene Armbruster; The Parsons Family of Murray Hill; LIRR historian and photographer Ron Ziel; the Long Island Daily Press; and the Sunnyside Gardens Arena.

 

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$675K renovation completed at Woodhaven Library


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Woodhaven Library is opening a new chapter in its nearly 100-year history.

A $675,000 phase one renovation of the library was completed recently, updating many amenities.

On the first floor there is new lighting, carpeting, countertops, a new circulation desk, fresh painting, new computers and handicap accessible bathrooms. The library, which was opened in 1924 after original funding from steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie, was closed for three months during the renovation.

Future plans to upgrade the basement floor of the library are in the works. The children’s room will be renovated and there is a possibility of installing an elevator to allow more access.

The library is located on 85-41 Forest Parkway. It is open on weekdays, but not weekends.

 

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Corona Library among winners of first NYC Neighborhood Library Awards


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Queens Library

Two libraries in the borough came up on top in New York City’s first ever Neighborhood Library Awards.

The Charles H. Revson Foundation announced on Tuesday, September 17 the five winners of the first NYC Neighborhood Library Awards. After a six-week nomination period this summer, the five libraries were chosen from 10 finalists that were picked from 4,310 nominations.

Corona Library, located on 38-17 104th Street, was one of the five winning libraries that each received $10,000. The Macon Library and Sheepshead Bay Library in Brooklyn, New Dorp Library in Staten Island and Seward Park Library in Manhattan also took home the winning prize.

“There is a line around the corner of neighborhood residents before the branch opens,” said an excerpt from the nomination for Corona Library. “People use it for ESOL, homework help after school, internet access, and of course access to books. It is a trusted and safe place where all folks, regardless of socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds, can come.”

The nominations were cast between May and July by parents, students, seniors, artists, teachers, job-seekers and entrepreneurs. The recognition of the libraries showed each library’s dedication to serving the communities.

“These five libraries are truly outstanding and reflect the extraordinarily important role that neighborhood libraries play in communities all across the city,” said Julie Sandorf, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation. “It was especially moving to see, throughout the entire selection process, the passion of the nominators and their gratitude for the often life-changing contributions of the neighborhood library.”

Along with the five winning libraries, the remaining finalists, which included the Queens Village Library located at 94-11 217th Street in Queens Village, were each given checks for $5,000.

 

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Gator greets kids at Queens Library


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Queens Library

A reading came alive for some local children when an alligator visited the Whitestone branch of the Queens library.

Children’s Librarian Susan Scatena promised that if at least 300 children registered for summer reading, and they collectively read at least 4,000 books, she would read a story to a “big, scaly, live alligator.”

According to the Queens Library, they surpassed that goal, with 344 children registering and completing 4,595 books.

On Thursday, Scatena read Mercer Mayer’s “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” to Wally, a five-foot female alligator, and hundreds of neighborhood kids.

Wally was handled by reptile trainer Erik Callendar, who taught the children about alligators during the reading.

Yesterday’s reading wasn’t the first time Scatena has motivated her young readers with a “wild challenge.”  Each year, she promises that if they meet their summer reading goals, she will perform an over-the-top stunt. Previously, she has sat in a tub of JELL-O; dressed in a rabbit suit and kissed a bunny; and cuddled an enormous python.

 

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Glen Oaks Library celebrates $17M overhaul


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Glen Oaks bookworms now have three floors to “search” to their hearts’ content.

On sunny days, the six-letter word is illuminated across the brand new Queens Library at Glen Oaks, which celebrated its ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, September 3.

“The new Glen Oaks library offers state-of-the-art architecture, the latest technology and a host of impressive resources for our vibrant and diverse community,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, who helped fund the $17 million project with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The chic 18,000-square-foot branch at 256-04 Union Turnpike, with its partially transparent exterior, is nearly double the size of the old branch, which was built in 1956.

A sweeping interior staircase leads to more computer workstations, separate areas for adults, teens and children and a sky-lit reading lounge. There is also an outdoor reading space.

The new library is expected to serve 250,000 people a year, library officials said.

 

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Cambria Heights Library expanding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Hammers crashed through the wall at the Queens Library branch in Cambria Heights, breaking down barriers and creating room for young minds to grow.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie and Queens Library president and CEO Thomas Galante swung the hammers through the wall to clear the way into a space that will become the new Teen Center.

“Queens Libraries remain a critical part of our communities,” said Comrie, who funded the expansion.

When complete, the library will have an additional 4,000-square-feet, giving youth access to a community center equipped with a cyber center, lounge, reading room, reference and school work resources, a meeting room and a digital recording studio. The center will be located on the lower level with a separate entrance, which will allow teens to use the site during non-library hours.

The $1.34 million project is expected to be complete by next spring.

“With [Comrie’s] support, the library will be the coolest place in Cambria Heights and we couldn’t be happier,” Galante said.

 

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Far Rockaway Library to close for three weeks to receive upgrades


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the Queens Library

The Far Rockaway branch of the Queens Library will close for three weeks and reopen with new services and a new look.

After the library’s doors shut on Saturday, August 10, the adult reading area will receive a complete “cosmetic refurbishment,” a spokesperson for the library said. Additionally, officials are adding job placement skills on site.

Previously, residents were given job search access and resume review at the library, but the services could not connect job hopefuls to employers. After the revamping, partnering with city agencies will afford Rockaway residents that option.

“People need help looking for work and the library is where they can start to connect,” said Joanne King, the library’s communications director. “[For] a lot of the city-run services for job connection, people have to travel to Jamaica or further. They wanted to have something closer, a little more convenient, for the people on the peninsula.”

Part of the space will also be reconfigured to include privacy cubicles. The library plans to reopen in late August.

While the site is closed, residents can receive limited library service in the front lobby of the Queens Library for Teens, located at 2002 Cornago Avenue at Beach 20th Street on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All Teen Library services will remain in place on weekdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 

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Queens has most immigrant seniors in city: report


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Queens has the largest number of immigrant seniors in the city, with Flushing leading the list of neighborhoods, according to a new report.

The borough is home to about 162,000 foreign-born people over the age of 65, says a study by the Center for an Urban Future. The report shows more than 25,000 live in Flushing.

“Immigrants are critical to Queens,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the New York-based think tank.

“They’ve driven a lot of the economic growth in the borough,” he said. “They make up almost half of the population in Queens. It’s important that they can grow old in the city.”

Droves of immigrants, mostly from Asia, first made their way to Flushing in the 1970s, Bowles said.

Since then, many more have moved from Manhattan’s Chinatown to the northern Queens neighborhood for a more affordable way of life that is surrounded by immigrant services. In the last decade, more than 8,000 immigrant seniors have settled in Flushing, according to the report.

“They want to live in Flushing because it’s more convenient for them in terms of language barriers,” said Kathy Liu, program director for the Flushing YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center. “It’s one of the neighborhoods which allow immigrants to go to different agencies to help them in their language.”

The center is a one-stop shop for non-English speakers and one of many locations where immigrants can receive for free literacy, citizen preparation, job readiness and computer classes year-round. The facility sees natives from China, Korea and even France, Liu said.

The Flushing branch of the Queens Library, which offers similar services, is the most heavily used branch in the state, said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King.

Still, the report shows immigrant seniors face a number of challenges, including a higher poverty rate. They are also less likely to receive government benefits.

“Many don’t qualify for retirement or housing benefits,” Liu said. “With rent so high in this area, they find it very difficult to live with the savings they brought from their own country.”

According to the report, Flushing has the highest concentration of poor seniors. More than half of all Korean seniors in the city who are below the federal poverty line live in Flushing, the study found.

The Rockaways had the second largest group of poor immigrant seniors, 3,154 people.

“Immigrant adults have all of those traditional challenges, but then they have additional ones because of language barriers or a lack of familiarity with programs and services that are available,” Bowles said. “I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, but as a challenge that New York City policy makers have to plan for.”

Some other highlights:

  • Bellerose, Rosedale, Forest Hills and Rego Park, trailing slightly behind Flushing, also made the list.
  • Howard Beach and South Ozone Park had the largest change in their immigrant senior population. They saw a 112 percent jump, which amounts to nearly 5,000 seniors.
  •  Over the last decade, the number of immigrant seniors in Queens increased by 42,000, while the number of native-born seniors dropped by nearly 41,000.



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