Increasing space for users at Queens Library branches could begin a new chapter in its history, after a new study found most locations are struggling from space constraints.
The news comes days after the library’s CEO Tom Galante was suspended by the board of trustees, following a series of published reports revealing his nearly $400,000 salary, benefits, and erection of a smoking deck outside his office in Central Library, while making employee cuts.
The Center for an Urban Future released Monday the Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries report, which said 41 of the library’s 62 branches are under 10,000 square feet and struggling to meet the demands of its increasing membership. Queens had the most branches under that size in the five boroughs. Brooklyn came in second with 26 branches.
About 11.2 million people visited Queens Library branches in fiscal year 2014, according to statistics on the library’s website, and there were 929,000 active borrowers. The problem isn’t a need to repair libraries but adjust the layout, according to the report.
“It’s not just that so many New York City libraries are old and in a state of disrepair, many are not configured to meet the needs of today’s users,” the study said. “Designed around their book collections, many devote a majority of their layouts to shelves and rooms for book processing.”
The report specifically identified the Fresh Meadows library branch as one of the more well-attended branches in the city, but only has 8,700 square feet of space. That branch and the Far Rockaway, Lefferts, Rego Park and Sunnyside locations are five of the 10 “highest performing branches citywide” that are in need of more space.
“These well-attended branches would undoubtedly attract significantly more patrons for programs if they had more space for them,” the report said.
But some libraries just don’t have enough seating, such as the Jackson Heights branch, which has more than 375,000 annual visitors, but can only seat 78 people.
In its defense, Interim Queens Library President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said that the library is currently engaging in many projects to expand its branches and meet its vast membership.
“Over the past several years, elected officials in Queens have done a great job of allocating funds to help Queens Library upgrade and maintain its facilities,” Quinn-Carey said. “As the report suggests, there is still so much more that we could be doing for the community if we had the space in which to do it. We look forward to working with public funders to establish a rational, forward-looking capital funding plan that gives libraries the resources they need to plan important capital investments.”
On a positive note, Queens has the newest libraries, according to the report. The borough ranks youngest in age, with the average library at just 47 years old. Manhattan is first with an average age of 84 years old. Also, six of the 15 new libraries in the past 20 years were branches in Queens.
Click here to read the full report.