Statement by Dennis M. Walcott, President and CEO, Queens Library
New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs,
Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries
Fiscal Year 2017 Preliminary Budget Hearing
March 23, 2016
Good morning. My name is Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of the Queens Library. It is an honor to testify today before you for the first time in my new capacity. As a life-long user of the Queens Library, I know first-hand how vital this impactful institution is for our communities and the people it serves. As a young person, I received my first library card from the St. Albans branch where my love of reading was fostered and encouraged. Our libraries have changed a lot since then. They have evolved into neighborhood anchors and beacons of hope and opportunity.
Prior to my official start, I visited libraries across the borough and rode on the truck delivering and picking up books and materials. It gave me unique insight in an important aspect of library operations. On one of my first days on the job, a man walked up to me at my desk on the first floor of the Central Library and introduced himself. He said he had recently been released from prison and was trying to get his life on track. He had come to the library to use the computers to look for work and for assistance with finding a job. We were able to help him and many people like him at our cyber center and our job-training program. Since then, I have visited most of our community libraries and have met with dedicated staff members who provide life-changing services.
Whether it is providing free services like Universal Pre-K, after-school programs, adult learning classes, IDNYC enrollment and job-training assistance, or helping to bridge the digital divide by offering free internet and 7,500 public computing access points to millions of people, New Yorkers depend on their libraries.
Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor de Blasio, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Library Sub-Committee Chair Andy King and the entire City Council, $43 million was restored to the operating budgets of the three library systems for the current fiscal year. This investment has ensured universal six-day library service and enhanced programming for all New York City residents.
Queens Library received $12 million in additional operating funds this year. We hired 129 new employees, including librarians, custodians, maintenance, as well as clerical and other support staff. One hundred and fifteen (115) of those positions are union jobs. Twenty two percent (22%), or $2.6 million, was used to purchase sorely needed library materials including new books and periodicals. We are also investing in more e-books, which are in high demand by our customers.
All our libraries are open at least six days a week. The Central Library and the Flushing community library are currently providing seven-day service, and we have expanded weekday hours at both locations. On average, our libraries are now open 45.6 hours per week.
That has had an impact on people like Julio Silarayan who works for a catering company. He knows he will not be able to advance in his job without better English skills, but his work schedule simply did not permit him to take ESOL classes during the week. Now that our library in East Flushing is open on Saturdays, Julio is beginning his studies.
At Queens Village library, we were able to hire a new children’s librarian, Erica Anthony. Queens Village has a large population of children after school, many of whom are new immigrants. The number one request from their parents is for homework help. These parents endured the trauma of displacement so their children would get a good education, and they rely on the library to help them succeed. That is why Erica is single-handedly trying to help 40 grade-schoolers do their assignments every school day – 40 children. Their parents have limited English and they have no other resources. It is so wonderful to have Erica on our staff – but it is just not enough.
In the last fiscal year, 11.3 million visits were made to the Queens Library – either in person or online. We have 13.6 million educational and cultural materials in circulation. Queens Library loaned more than 544,000 e-books, 6,700 tablets, and loaned mobile hot spots 4,700 times. That’s 4,700 times New Yorkers took the internet home in their pockets, absolutely free. Nearly eight million visits were made to our website, and close to one million visits to our e-content Virtual Library. Our talented staff provided guidance and answered three million questions from our customers. Free library programs are more popular than ever. Attendance at library programs in Queens is projected to hit one million by the end of 2017 – an increase of more than 13% in only two years.
We are encouraged to see $21 million of the $43 million baselined in the Mayor’s preliminary budget. Let me stress the importance of baselining and locking in these gains. It’s not hard to imagine the impact of having millions of dollars of your annual budget in question just weeks before a new fiscal year. The uncertainty of continued funding has a detrimental effect across the board – from staffing continuity and customer service hours, to program planning and delivery.
Queens Library increased its ESOL seats by 6.6% last fiscal year, adding classes, locations and more weekend sessions. However, we still turned away more than 1,100 students due to lack of capacity. The 2016 investment was historic, but too many needs remain unmet – including funding for literacy programs, workforce development, High School Equivalency, early learning and our STACKS after-school programs, technology training, electronic content and additional hours of service.
That’s why we need the Mayor and the City Council to continue to invest in libraries with $44 million in additional baselined funding. The people of this city would then have access to more services and increased opportunities.
• Queens Library would provide robust six-day service every week and be able to hire more librarians and library staff.
• This would enable us to increase our program offerings in well-maintained and safe facilities.
• We would increase operating hours, adding 223 total hours per week across the borough while bringing seven-day service to every council district, enriching the lives of hundreds of thousands more people each year.
• We would be able to hire 60 new staff members to provide added service.
• We would be able to offer 500,000 more computer sessions, and increase the materials we have in our collection by 40,000 items, including more homework help materials, more e-books, more ESOL support and more high-demand items for adults and children.
• We would be able to provide our free, curriculum-based, after-school STACKS program in every community library in the borough. This equates to 8,800 additional sessions and 26,400 more instructional hours for 1,100 young people.
Maintaining our 65 locations and aging infrastructure is also a short and long-term challenge for the Library. The average community library is 61 years old. More than a third are over 50 years old. They are heavily used, and most were not constructed to accommodate the traffic that we see due to the growth in demand for our services. Additionally, the vast majority of libraries are poorly configured to meet the demands of the digital age – with too few electrical outlets, too little space for classes, group work, or space for individuals working on laptop computers. Our challenge is to modernize our facilities, maintain our critical infrastructure and to expand our public spaces in order to thrive in the 21st century.
We have identified an unmet capital need of $300 million in our Ten Year Capital Plan to modernize and expand our facilities and address critical infrastructure needs. In the next fiscal year alone, we have a $71 million unmet need for critical infrastructure, including roof replacements, HVAC, ADA compliance, building envelope and mechanical projects, and to relieve overcrowding. These include: projects with ADA compliance components at Astoria and North Hills ($5.5 million total); security systems for 16 community libraries – Baisley Park, Broadway, Court Square, Glendale, Howard Beach, Jackson Heights, Laurelton, Lefferts, Maspeth, McGoldrick, Middle Village, North Hills, Queens Village, Ridgewood, Rochdale Village and Seaside ($1.6m total). Finally, we must address the significant amount of overcrowding at our busiest libraries where the public is no longer adequately served – these include Rego Park, Corona and Jackson Heights.
Libraries are an indispensable institution and the cornerstone of a strong democratic society. With greater hours, comes greater responsibility. We are tasked not only with maintaining the excellence and quality of our programs, but we must also provide more opportunities to the people who have been without weekend programs in their neighborhoods for almost a decade. When we are asked to do more with less, we deliver. When the City needed a reliable partner to advance key initiatives such as IDNYC, UPK or the New Americans Corner, we successfully took the challenge.
Though we did not receive the full $65M restoration that we advocated for last year, we nevertheless found a way to deliver six-day service and increase our programming for this year. In order to lock in the gains we have all worked so hard to achieve, I urge the City Council to work with the Mayor to baseline the operating funds of New York City’s three library systems at our current funding level. Additionally, I urge the City Council and the Mayor to work together to provide the three library systems the additional $22 million to restore and baseline the full $65 million needed to deliver the programming, materials, hours and services necessary for essential library service across the City.
Investing in libraries is an investment in the people of this great City. Together, we do great work, but we can do more. We need the City to continue to invest in New Yorkers by investing in libraries.
Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO, Queens Library
New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries
March 20, 2015
Good morning. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Majority Leader Van Bramer, City Council Finance Chair Ferreras, Library Subcommittee Chair Constantinides, Queens Delegation Leader Weprin and the entire City Council for its continuing support of the mission and programs of Queens Library. Your dedication is greatly appreciated.
Our City’s public libraries serve the many and varied needs of a constantly growing number of people. They function as community centers and educational hubs, and provide a broad range of essential services that are free and available to all New Yorkers, including those most in need. They provide adult literacy programs, easy access to community health care and medical information, services for non-native speakers and new citizens, and academic opportunities for children of all ages. I am sure everyone in the City Council appreciates the value of libraries in every community and I know that you have been supportive of libraries, to the best of your ability, during the lean years.
We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this City — as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries, so that together we ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive.
For the past several years, you have heard us talk about how vital our library services have been to our communities during the recession. You have heard about how we have provided digital access for people who cannot afford it, the pivotal role our Job and Business Academy has played in helping people prepare to go back to work, how we have helped families survive by helping them apply for benefits, and, of course, serving as an access point for City services, such as disaster recovery information, IDNYC and more. Community wellness, adult basic education, digital literacy, academic support — we have struggled to provide it all during the bad times and many, many people in Queens were very appreciative that we were there.
But I want to tell you what has happened at Queens Library right now. In the first half of FY 15, visitorship is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7% in the past 6 months, and up 43% over the past five years. The demand for library programs and services continues to grow. The economy has improved, but we all know, it has not improved for everyone. If this Mayor and this Council truly believe in Equity, Growth, Resiliency, and Sustainability, there is never going to be a better time or a better investment than to invest in libraries.
We need funding for a minimum of six days of service in every library in every community. And we need funding that will enable us to have the services and materials people want and need on those days as well. Thanks to the leadership of Council Member Van Bramer, Council Member Ferreras and the entire Council, we received a modest increase in funding for FY 15 and we are thankful. You can see that we had immediate results. But we need to do better.
Working families need to have access to early childhood programs such as our new Family Place in Corona on the weekend. Adult learners need to be able to access adult basic education, high school equivalency preparation and English classes on the weekends. And everyone needs more access to public access computers and skills training classes.
Council Member Constantinides has publicly mentioned that in NYCHA housing, 40% of the residents do not have internet access. That is not an unusual situation. Public computers in the library are in constant use every day. Those computers bring the necessity of quick and efficient internet access to more Queens residents than any other institution. And so does our technology lending program, which includes Google tablets and mobile broadband hot spots that you can take home. But you can’t use the computers, borrow a tablet or take a digital literacy workshop when the library is closed. Forty-three community libraries and centers in Queens are closed all weekend long. If we were open six a days a week, we would be able to provide computer access to hundreds of thousands more people in Queens. Think about how that would help to change the game not only in NYCHA houses but for all Queens residents.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso funded the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative, because they, along with all of you, understand how important it is to the future of our city to help parents raise strong and proficient readers. Queens Library is a national leader in the delivery of innovative services for early learners. We are the first public library in the country to operate a library-based, Universal Pre-K program. We established the first Family Place in New York City, a research-based learning environment for young children and their caretakers. But if working parents cannot come to the library with their children, if they cannot use the library and its books as bonding time, where they can make reading skills a part of their family life, the Council is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We need funding so our libraries can remain open during more hours, when families have access to the programs and resources. Chair Jimmy Van Bramer has often spoken about how he used the library as a child. He still comes to the library with his mother — we were happy to welcome her to an event at the Broadway Community Library recently. We need to make family library time accessible to this generation of children. We need funding to keep our libraries open six days a week and for the programs and services that are essential to offer when the library is open.
Queens has the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in New York City, in the most ethnically and linguistically diverse county in the country, the Worlds Borough. Queens Library welcomes recent immigrants and those born here to celebrate their cultural heritage, adapt to life in the United States, learn English, and advance in their pursuit of the American dream. Sadly, last year, we had to turn away more than a thousand ESOL students because we simply did not have another chair to put them in. People come to us with a desire to learn, with a will to take the next step to improve their futures, but we have to turn them away. It’s time to open our doors, expand our classes and make sure that the thousands of people that need help can get it at our libraries.
I would like to tell you about Khadijah Rasheed. She wanted to be with us today, but I am pleased to say that she couldn’t make it because she is working. She lives in Arverne, on the Rockaway peninsula. Khadijah was a very hardworking college student who happened to be in the library when the first Google tablets rolled in for loan. She was able to borrow one. Having the tablet allowed Khadijah to make better use of her long commute to and from classes. She used it to complete her degree at the College of New Rochelle with excellent grades. In addition to her job, she is in a graduate school program. Following Super Storm Sandy, private grant funds kept the library at Arverne open seven days a week, but that is over now. The library at Arverne is not open on weekends. Khadijah and her family need and deserve the educational opportunities that their library can provide. She needs and deserves this chance to grow, personally and economically. She could never have succeeded without the support of her public library. But now, it is only open Monday to Friday. Khadijah’s daughter and her neighbors need this Council to invest in New Yorkers by investing in libraries.
This year, thanks to the restoration of some funds, Queens Library was able to hire more staff to serve the public with their informational and educational needs, and to purchase more library materials for them to borrow. Unfortunately, that restoration was for one year only and our FY 16 budget is starting out $2.8 million less than this year. Along with my colleagues at New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries, we are asking for $65 million to deliver more computer sessions, more adult education, more support for young students, more ESOL seats, and to hire more qualified staff.
At the same time, the need for capital funds for our library facilities must be addressed. We recently announced the approval to begin construction of the long-awaited new library at Hunters Point. We recently celebrated the opening of the new Teen Center at Cambria Heights, a new roof at Lefferts and Hollis, a renovated children’s library space at Broadway. Dozens of projects are underway across the borough to improve and enhance library spaces. But, here too, the needs outweigh our budget.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. We have submitted a request for $418 million in projects over the next ten years that will be required to get our system up to a state of good repair, replace 6 and expand 5 libraries to relieve overcrowding and renovate 20 libraries to create suitable library spaces for the 21st century. The Ten-Year plan has not yet been funded and we look to your support for this effort.
Queens Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library are asking for a $65 million baseline increase in City operating funding for libraries. And we are asking for a rational, sustainable Capital plan so we can keep our physical spaces worthy of our mission. I hope I can count on all of you to make that happen. Please: invest in libraries and invest in New Yorkers.
Thank you. I look forward to answering any questions.
Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO Queens Library
New York City Council Finance Committee Jointly with Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Subcommittee on Libraries
February 24, 2015
Good afternoon. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Finance Chair Ferreras, Majority Leader Van Bramer, Library Subcommittee Chair Constantinides, Queens Delegation Leader Weprin and the entire City Council for its consistent support of the mission and programs of the Queens Library. Your ongoing support is critical and appreciated.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about the capital needs of the Queens Library and the Ten-Year Capital plan that was submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget.
My colleagues and I come before you representing the great equalizer—our City’s libraries. Together, we open our doors to provide the broadest range of services to the broadest range of New Yorkers. Whether it’s teaching English to our new immigrant population, providing after-school services every day or providing job assistance to under- and unemployed New Yorkers, there is a free program in the public library. And we have had the most significant impact in helping to close the great digital divide by opening the wonders of the internet to more New Yorkers than any other institution.
Right now, our libraries are not able to give New Yorkers the full benefit of what we have to offer. The lack of reliable capital budget support has limited our ability to provide the level of services we know is needed and could deliver if our basic capital needs were met in a way that allows us to plan effectively. We all know that emergency repairs cost more than planned repairs; we are able to give taxpayers the best value for their investment when we have the resources to make needed capital upgrades strategically.
The average branch library is 61 years old, with a quarter of the branches built over a century ago. They are heavily used. Collectively, more than 35 million people visited their public library last year, creating a great deal of wear and tear. The vast majority of libraries are poorly configured to meet the demands of the digital age—with too few electrical outlets, too little space for classes, group work, or space for individuals working on laptop computers.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. In Queens alone, that figure exceeds $400 million.
Currently, our piecemeal year-to-year funding requests must compete for local support against a broad range of unique needs within each Council District and Borough. This approach does not allow us to effectively plan restoration projects, to replace aging systems on a routine basis and to assure continued public service. The members of the City Council have appropriately noted that they do not have the allocations available to fund high-cost projects including total building renovations, expansions or new facilities. Those projects should be within the purview of a comprehensive capital strategic plan.
We are encouraged that Mayor de Blasio is taking libraries’ capital needs seriously and included libraries in the City’s Ten-Year Capital Budget Strategy planning process. We submitted a comprehensive plan to address the critical needs of our facilities. Our plan, if funded, will bring our libraries into a state of good repair, create the necessary spaces to provide full-service library programs, and support the goals of equality, sustainability, resiliency and growth. Mayor de Blasio’s preliminary plan does not, however, include any new funding for projects included in our Ten-Year plan, leaving us literally and figuratively in an unsustainable position.
Library buildings in Queens are about providing the programs, services and spaces that people need to enrich their lives. How they look and perform makes a world of difference.
You will be hearing from the Friends of the Cambria Heights Library. This past year, thanks to the support of this Council, we opened a dedicated 4,000 square foot Teen Space with a tech lab, homework area, a recording booth and a gaming lounge. More than 100 young adults use it daily for school work and for a safe place to gather and relax. We can’t think of a better place for teens to congregate than the library, but it would not be possible without the capital investment in the space, and in them.
You will also be hearing about an expansion to our Adult Learning Center in Rochdale Village. Adult education services in Queens are in tremendous demand, but we simply did not have the capacity to serve one more person. There is an overwhelming need for our ESL services. Sadly, last year, we had to turn away more than 1,000 potential students because we did not have one more chair to put someone in.
There is a simple, cost-effective, expedient solution. We need your support to fund our capital needs so we can build and adequately maintain libraries that house these, and so many more, important community services.
Key projects already underway include a brand new Elmhurst library, expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, the full renovation of the Central Library, the expansion of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center, and new library buildings in Hunters Point and Far Rockaway, which is now in design. Upcoming projects include the full renovation at Glendale, the expansion and renovation of the East Elmhurst library and interior renovations of the Richmond Hill and Woodhaven libraries.
Despite our progress, many unmet capital- improvement and maintenance needs remain across the borough. These include both critical infrastructure such as roof replacements, elevator and ADA upgrades, as well as expansions, renovations and new facilities which many communities have long sought. What does it say to a community when they walk into a library building and see buckets on the floor catching rainwater? It means nobody cares about them. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We care, and I know this Council cares as well.
As you know, many of the city’s libraries are simply too small. In Queens, 41 of our 65 service locations are less than 10,000 square feet. It is impossible to squeeze full-service library programming, classes and collections into these spaces.
Demands on and for library space will continue to grow. The City projects that the population of Queens will increase by more than 300,000 people by the year 2030. We know that we can best serve our teen population – one of the populations in which libraries are able to make the most impact – when we give teens their own space. Areas in Queens that have traditionally been industrial space are now becoming newly residential, and there is no library nearby. We need to serve those new communities.
Over a ten-year period from 2016 to 2025, Queens Library seeks to enhance and enrich its library infrastructure by making capital improvements to 60 of our library locations, allocating over $418 million over the course of the plan. This will require approximately $41 million in capital funding per year.
It will allow us to fortify our existing buildings and build new ones with modern enhancements, incorporate energy-efficient materials and green architecture to reduce operating costs and preserve our environment.
The plan includes two brand-new libraries in emerging communities; six replacement buildings; four building expansions; indoor and outdoor renovations; new heating and cooling systems, and other environmentally-friendly innovations; and expanding technology services for our customers. An average of $24 million a year will be spent on the development of building expansions, replacements and new facilities, and $17 million a year will be spent on necessary reconstruction and ensuring a state of good repair and $25 million over ten years for technology.
But it is much less about windows and air conditioners, and more about the people who will use those buildings. Millions and millions of New Yorkers will come to the library for lifelong education and cultural enrichment in an attractive and safe environment of which we can all be proud. Each capital improvement reflects the Mayor’s policy priorities of Equity, Growth, Resiliency, and Sustainability and the values that have been repeatedly and eloquently expressed by the members of the City Council.
Our accomplishments have been many, but so too are our needs. Today, the three library systems have the opportunity to join with the Mayor and the City Council to create a new model that addresses this legacy of unmet needs and ensures a capital program that will be sustainable. We can only do so if the plan is funded. And that is our plea to the administration and to the City Council.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I look forward to our continued work together.
Statement by Bridget-Quinn Carey
Queens Borough President Borough Board Budget Hearing
February 23, 2015
Good morning. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank the members of Queens Borough Board for your leadership in supporting the mission and programs of Queens Library.
We are the World’s Library in the World’s Borough. That’s why our dedicated Board of Trustees and staff are committed to making Queens Library the most impactful and well used library in the world.
Today, Queens Library already provides the broadest range of services to the broadest range of New Yorkers. Whether it’s teaching English to our new New Yorkers, serving as the busiest location for Municipal ID registration, providing after-school programs or job assistance to the under- and unemployed, there is a free program at Queens Library. And we have had the biggest impact in helping to close the great digital divide by opening the wonders of the internet to more Queens residents than any other institution, and now in an even greater capacity through our new and innovative mobile broadband lending program).
For early-learners, Queens Library is a national leader in the delivery of innovative services. We are the first public library in the country to operate a library based public school pre-k program. We established the first Family Place in New York City-a researched based learning environment for young children and their caretakers.
For school-aged children, our structured after school program provides homework help and experiential learning projects that bolster academic performance. Our popular Teen Libraries offer age-appropriate programming including SAT test prep, youth employment opportunities and skill training, such as Girls Who Code programs.
This year, our Young Adult Literacy Programs will provide academic preparation, intensive case management, internships, and job shadowing.
For adult learners, Queens Library runs the largest library-run literacy program in the nation, serving more than 4,000 different adult learners at 30 community libraries and seven adult learning centers.
With the largest percentage of foreign born residents in New York City, in the most ethnically and linguistically diverse county in the country, Queens Library is truly a Global Commons: 65 welcoming locations where recent immigrants and those born here celebrate their cultural heritage and adapt to life in the United States - in addition to learning English, advancing their educations and careers.
At the same time, we offer popular multi-lingual programs on immigration law, becoming a citizen, starting a business, parenting, health education and computer classes and we have books and multimedia materials in languages from across the globe.
Our Job and Business Academy provides integrated services and support designed to enhance employment opportunities. Our jobs assessment and follow up interviews, structured workshops, and technology training sessions will help more than 50,000 customers this year.
Our older adults’ services to the homebound continued to expand through Mail-A-Book, teleconferencing and SKYPE sessions. This is a valuable service that often provides the only contact with the outside world these customers have.
Queens Library is the borough’s technology hub. For too many Queens residents the digital divide presents barriers to education, job opportunities and tasks of daily living. Approximately 30% of the borough does not have broadband or a computer at home. In certain communities, that number is much higher. You can well imagine how a child’s education will suffer without learning critical technology skills or an adult can become disconnected without access to information and services available only online. But you can enter any library and you will see our computers in constant use. You can even walk up to the check-out desk and borrow a tablet and a mobile broadband device to take home with you. Demand for e-books and e-magazines continue to sky rocket. But no matter how valuable our programs and services are, you simply cannot take advantage of them when the library is closed. We need more hours of service -- especially weekend hours in every library.
We are proud of our work and we know there is so much more that is needed. Last year, we turned away more than a thousand students who sought to register for ESOL classes. Demand to borrow tablets and mobile hot spots far outweigh current supplies. Funding is not keeping pace with the demand for quality curriculum-based after school programs and library doors are closed for too many hours when our customers need our services. This need is echoed across the City.
Queens Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library have joined together to advocate for a $65 million permanent increase in City funding for libraries. This funding will provide an additional $18.135 million for Queens Library, enabling us to bridge the divide between need and our ability to deliver critical services for our customers. Our doors would be open six days a week, ESOL classes would be available to more than 2,000 additional non-English speakers, program attendance could increase by 100,000, increased Early Childhood Literacy support would build a strong academic foundation for 300,000 attendees and their parents, computer sessions and internet access would help to further bridge the digital divide and homebound seniors would have additional resources available to keep their minds active and help to break the barriers of isolated living.
But, we cannot offer these services without an adequately funded baseline budget. As we pursue this funding, the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget for FY16 does not include the increased funding provided last year, putting us further behind in our efforts to serve the growing and diverse needs of Queens residents and making a broad-based advocacy effort even more crucial than ever.
At the same time, the need for capital funds for our library facilities must be addressed. We recently announced the approval to begin construction of the long awaited new library at Hunters Point. We recently celebrated the opening of the new Teen Center at Cambria Heights, a new roof at Lefferts and Hollis, a renovated children’s library space at Broadway. Dozens of projects are underway across the borough to improve and enhance library spaces. But, here too, needs outweigh our budget.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. I am encouraged that Mayor de Blasio has included libraries into the planning process of a ten-year capital plan. We have submitted a program of $418 million in projects over the next ten years that will be required to get our system up to a state of good repair, replace 6 and expand 5 libraries to relieve overcrowding and renovate 20 libraries to create suitable library spaces for the 21st century. The ten-year plan has not yet been funded and we look to your support for this effort.
Queens Library continues to deliver the services Queens residents want but not all that they need. We need your support for our expense and capital programs because, Borough President Katz, if it’s good for Queens Library-it’s good for families and good for Queens. Thank you.
Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO Queens Library
New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries
and International Intergroup Relations
Jointly with Subcommittee on Libraries
Oversight - New York City Public Library Systems Capital Needs & Planning
December 10, 2014
Good afternoon. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. Before I begin my testimony, I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Majority Leader Van Bramer, Council Finance Chair Ferreras, Library Subcommittee Chair Constantinides, Queens Delegation Leader Weprin and the entire City Council which has consistently supported the mission and programs of the Queens Library. We applaud your leadership.
The Queens Library also applauds the city’s leadership in turning a spotlight on the growing economic inequities that stifle the potential of far too many New Yorkers. Together with Mayor de Blasio, the City Council has continually opened new doors of opportunity to unleash that potential. Today, my colleagues and I come before you representing the greatest equalizers for all New Yorkers - our City’s libraries. Together, we open our doors to provide the broadest range of services to the broadest range of New Yorkers. Whether it’s teaching English to our new immigrant population, providing after-school services every day or providing job assistance to unemployed New Yorkers, there is a free program in the public library. And we have had the biggest impact in helping to close the great digital divide by opening the wonders of the internet to more New Yorkers than any other institution.
Right now, our libraries are not able to give New Yorkers the full benefit of what we have to offer. The lack of reliable capital budget support has limited our ability to provide the level of services we know is needed and could deliver if our basic capital needs were met in a way that allows us to plan effectively. We all know that emergency repairs cost more than planned repairs, and that we are able to give the taxpayers the best value when we have the resources to make needed capital upgrades strategically.
The average branch library is 61 years old, with a quarter of the branches built over a century ago. They are heavily used. Collectively, NYC’s public libraries logged more than 35 million visits last year, creating a great deal of wear and tear. The vast majority of libraries are poorly configured to meet the new demands on our libraries and of the digital age, with too few electrical outlets, too little space for classes, group work, or space for individuals working on laptop computers.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. Between fiscal years 2004-2013, the city spent $503 million on capital improvements for the libraries. During this same time period, city capital expenditures for cultural institutions totaled $2.1 billion, and capital funding for parks and recreational facilities totaled $4.4 billion. We support those investments and seek to have libraries on equal footing.
Currently, our piecemeal year-to-year funding requests must compete for local support against a broad range of unique needs within each Council District and Borough. This approach does not allow us to effectively plan restoration projects, to replace aging systems on a routine basis and to assure continued public service. Majority Leader Van Bramer has correctly noted that Councilmembers do not have the allocations available to fund high cost projects including total building renovations, expansions and new facilities. Those projects should be within the purview of a comprehensive strategic program.
Therefore, we are indebted to the Mayor and the City Council for including libraries in the City’s Ten-Year Capital Budget Strategy. Each library system has submitted plans that address the unique needs of our systems. Our plans will bring the libraries into a state of good repair, create the necessary spaces to provide full-service library programs, and support the goals of equality, sustainability, resiliency and growth.
The Ten-Year plan we have submitted will build upon the substantial capital projects that we have recently completed, including the new Glen Oaks Library, the new Teen Center at Cambria Heights, and renovated libraries at Bayside, Fresh Meadows and Queensboro Hill. We also restored library facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy, including those at Arverne, Broad Channel, Seaside, Howard Beach and Peninsula which is now under construction and scheduled to reopen in the spring.
Key projects underway include a brand new Elmhurst Library, an expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, the full renovation of the Central Library, and the expansion of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center. New library buildings in Hunters Point and Far Rockaway, are now in design. Additional upcoming projects include the full renovation of the Glendale Library, the expansion and renovation of the East Elmhurst Library and interior renovations of the Richmond Hill and Woodhaven libraries.
Despite our progress, many unmet capital- improvement and maintenance needs remain across the borough. These include both critical infrastructure such as roof replacements, elevator and ADA upgrades, as well as expansions and renovations, which many communities have long sought.
Many of the City’s libraries are simply too small. Across the five boroughs, 100 branch buildings are 10,000 square feet or smaller, and 75 of those are less than 8,000 square feet.
Although small buildings pose problems in every borough, 41 of our 65 service locations in Queens are less than 10,000 square feet. It is impossible to squeeze full-service library programming, classes and collections into these spaces.
Demands on and for library space will continue to grow. The City projects that the population of Queens will increase by more than 300,000 people by the year 2030. Young people represent a growing population with critical service needs. We know that we can best serve our teen population -–one of the populations in which libraries are able to make the most impact–- when we give teens their own space. For instance, in Cambria Heights, we recently opened a 4,000 sq. ft. teen center, complete with a tech lab, group study area and a recording booth and that is drawing young people from all over the area into the library. But not all our libraries have room to house such a state-of-the-art teen area. Areas in Queens that have traditionally been industrial space are now becoming residential, and there is no library nearby. We need to serve these new communities. We know that in order to both serve our existing customers and adequately handle an influx of new residents, our existing infrastructure must grow accordingly.
That’s why our ten-year capital strategy goal is to ensure that every Queens Library facility will be accessible, safe, technologically advanced, cost-effectively built and maintained, flexible and a good fit for the community served.
Over a ten-year period from 2016 to 2025, Queens Library seeks to enhance and enrich its library infrastructure by making capital improvements to 60 of our library locations, allocating over $418 million over the course of the plan. This will require approximately $41 million in capital funding per year.
These improvements will promote the growth of our infrastructure and increase its equity, resiliency, and sustainability, so that we can: fortify our existing buildings and build new ones with modern enhancements, incorporate energy-efficient materials and green architecture to save money, reduce our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase our institutional capacity to better serve our nearly 929,000 active borrowers, our program attendees, and the greater population of Queens.
The plan includes two brand-new libraries in emerging communities; six replacement buildings; indoor and outdoor renovations; new heating and cooling systems, and other environmentally-friendly innovations; and expanding technological services for our customers. An average of $24 million a year will be spent on the development of new facilities; $17 million a year will be spent on necessary reconstruction and ensuring a state of good repair; and $25 million over ten years for technology.
Our Ten-Year Capital Plan is directly influenced by the policies set forth by the City’s administration. Throughout our plan, each capital improvement has been clearly linked to the Mayor’s policy priorities of Equity, Growth, Resiliency, and Sustainability.
To guarantee equity, our goal is to ensure that Queens Library facilities provide equal access to innovatively designed libraries that meet the unique needs of our borough’s individual communities.
We will build new community libraries in Hunters Point and Willets Point that will provide services and programs to residents in these emerging and planned communities. The overburdened libraries in the surrounding neighborhoods will then be able to serve their existing communities more effectively and efficiently.
In addition, we will replace five existing buildings to help meet the demands for public space and to deliver full-service library programs to our diverse customer base.
Queens Library served as a lifeline to many of the communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The improvements we make to our infrastructure (as well as the new buildings we construct) will take into account the role that our City’s libraries play in times of disaster. Several of our renovations will make our existing libraries in flood-prone regions more resilient to extreme weather conditions.
A major part of our resiliency efforts will be ensuring that all capital improvements are built with an eye towards cost-effective maintenance. Energy efficiency and helping to compensate for the effects of climate change are two of the City’s top priorities over the next ten years and beyond. Queens Library has created its own energy-saving initiative, our “Flip the Switch Campaign,” funded by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services Division of Energy Management. The improvements to our infrastructure during our Ten- Year Capital Plan will further help to achieve the Mayor’s sustainability initiatives.
Renovation and construction efforts will continue to utilize sustainable architecture practices. For instance, the new doors and windows at our Woodside, Forest Hills and Howard Beach locations will be energy-efficient. Thirteen of our libraries will receive new roofs designed to reduce energy and heating loss, while they protect our valuable collections, furnishings and equipment from the elements.
Our Ten-Year plan proposes to upgrade and install new heating, ventilating, and air conditioning units at 14 of our libraries. At two of our largest libraries, a cooling tower will be installed (Flushing) and a Building Management System will control and monitor mechanical and electrical equipment, increasing that building’s energy efficiency (Central).
As you can see, our accomplishments have been many but so too are our needs. Today, the three library systems have the opportunity to join with the Mayor and the City Council to create a new model that addresses the legacy of unmet needs and ensures a capital program that will be sustainable. Thank you to the Mayor and the City Council for this forward-thinking and forward-looking approach to addressing the library’s capital needs.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I look forward to our continued work together.
Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Queens Library
Testimony before the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and
International Intergroup Relations jointly with the Committee on Finance and the Subcommittee on Libraries
New York City Council Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget Hearings
June 3, 2014
Good Morning. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Queens Library. I want to begin by thanking the City Council and these committees for the opportunity to testify today, including: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Finance Committee; Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Majority Leader and Chairman of the City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations; Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries; and Council Member Mark Weprin, Chair of the Queens Delegation.
We are incredibly grateful for your unwavering support, which has sustained the quality of public library service in this City over the last half a decade of very difficult budget cycles. Year after year, as annual proposed budget cuts threatened to dismantle the system of public libraries, as we know it, this council spoke up, stepped up, and made libraries a priority. It is only because of this support, and the very large restorations made each year, that we have maintained five-day-per-week service in every community we serve and maintained core services that our customers rely on.
Today, we have an incredibly exciting opportunity for the people of Queens. The Library opens the door to opportunity for all we serve; with your support we can deliver real results for young learners, young adults and for adults of all ages and backgrounds. Together, we can make a real difference tackling some of the biggest challenges we, as a City, are facing.
Just last week, I had the distinct honor of officiating at a ceremony celebrating the graduation of more than 50 of our Queens Library students. These adult learners had turned to the library for free adult education classes preparing for the High School Equivalency exam. They took advantage of classes, small group learning and access to resources and computers. Last week, we celebrated their graduation, as each of them achieved their High School Equivalency Diploma. I could not have been more proud of these students, and the library team that helped them along their way. One of the graduates told the audience that she was a new immigrant only 3-1/2 years ago. She came to the library to learn some English. Today she is enrolled in community college. She said, “I believe that my dream will come true because the Flushing Library gave me the confidence in the very first step.” To perform every day miracles like that, we must keep our doors open as many hours as possible.
In 2008, New York City public libraries were funded to be open 6 days a week in every community in Queens. Queens customers enjoyed a 45 hour per week schedule delivered by a full time workforce of nearly 1200. The materials budget was about twice what it is today. Since that time, a series of large budget reductions, spurred by a faltering economy, began and continued for the next six budget cycles.
Despite the very formidable work of the Council and the Mayor to restore the worst of the proposed cuts, reductions were sustained, both at budget adoption annually and through mid-year “PEGS” to meet budget gaps. Since 2008, the Queens Library has sustained a 17% reduction in funding. This has resulted in a loss of over 250 positions, the slashing of the materials budget by over 50%, and the reduction in average weekly hours to under 40 hours a week. For our customers, it means long wait-times to borrow materials. Today, roughly two-thirds of Queens residents do not have a library open on a weekend in their community.
Our goal, very simply, is to restore the funding lost since 2008, bring back employees, bring back full shelves, and open the doors in every community for customers to benefit from the critical resources they can only get when their library is open. One in four library customers comes to the library just to use the public access computers. When our doors are closed, they simply have no other alternatives.
The opportunities before us are only achievable with your support, and we are encouraged by the current budget proposal. We are grateful to Mayor de Blasio for proposing an Executive budget that sustains the baseline of the FY ‘14 council restoration. We are additionally grateful and encouraged by the council’s response to that budget, with a request for an additional $35 million to New York City public library funding this year, which gets us halfway there. This represents a significant turning point in that for the first time in many years, we can have a conversation about what more libraries can do in every community.
New City funding for Fiscal 2015 will translate directly into jobs, with the hiring of new employees to keep libraries open, and the purchase of materials. With a full, citywide addition of $65 million over the Executive budget proposal, we envision a vast increase in weekend service; meeting the community demand for 6 day a week service in every single Queens Library, facilitated by the filling of approximately 250 positions.
In addition, the materials budget would see a much needed increase. Since 2008, significant changes have occurred in the way that libraries deliver information. Increasingly, customers are demanding digital materials, such as e-books. The loaning of digital materials is up significantly. For libraries, this creates an additional challenge of providing both digital materials as well as print materials, in effect doubling the demands on the materials budget. Queens Library is also providing users with access to mobile devices on which to take advantage of digital materials, lending devices, including Google Tablets, for free, with a library card. This adds expense; but it is an important way Queens Library helps our users keep pace with the ever-changing digital information landscape.
Your investment in people, in jobs for children’s librarians, teen librarians, adult librarians, custodians, clerical staff, youth counselors, adult literacy teachers, case managers and all the staff who deliver high quality library service, will be returned many times over in your communities as library doors are open on weekends and residents gain more access to computers, resources, technology training, English classes, adult education, programs and so much more. The need for more access to all these resources the library offers is clear. The weekend hours are particularly critical for working families.
The library continues to innovate and deliver programs that meet the evolving needs of our communities. The Queens Library’s Job and Business Academy is a growing part of our programmatic offerings, responding to the urgent needs of job seekers and small business owners. Last year, we welcomed over 20,000 people to job search and small business support programs and 3.3 million free computer sessions. Every additional hour that the library is open presents an opportunity for thousands of job seekers to get online. This is especially important for people who do not have Internet access at home. While this program is successful, it is only available in 14 locations. Scaling it to make it available in every location is crucial.
Afterschool support also remains a top priority for the Library, providing an enriching environment for students assisting them along their academic path. In Queens, attendance for young adult programs doubled between 2002 and 2011. We are now welcoming nearly 450,000 students annually. Expanding this core service for children and teens after school requires funding to hire new Children’s and Teen librarians and Youth Counselors.
We are also expanding early learning opportunities. In addition to the traditional library offerings for the very young (such as Toddler Learning Centers and story hours and the STEM-learning focused experience of the Children’s Library Discovery Center), the Queens Library is proud to share with you today that we have been awarded the opportunity, through the competitive process of the Department of Education, to provide Universal Pre-Kindergarten classes as part of the citywide initiative. This initiative will tap into some of the great unrealized potential of libraries as community-based early learning centers.
Last year, Queens Library provided English Language Learning or Adult Basic Education to 7,900 learners. In addition, we are a pilot site for administrating the new online High School Equivalency exam. We know, however, that the need in these areas far exceeds what we can offer in a borough whose population is almost half foreign born. Beginning to restore six-day a week service will begin to make these objectives a reality. We are enormously proud of all our community libraries, their programs, and the value they deliver for the community. We also know it is imperative to protect the investment in the physical space.
The Queens library operates 62 community libraries, seven adult learning centers, the Children’s Library Discovery Center, the Far Rockaway Teen Library, and two Learning Centers.
The Queens Library is currently engaged in one of the most successful capital renovation and expansion plans in its history, delivering modernized, technology-equipped facilities for customers and staff. Currently, the library is underway with a series of expansions, renovations and new facilities that will better meet the needs of those communities. Key projects include the expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, the expansion of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center and new library buildings in Hunters Point and Far Rockaway. In addition, the library continues to upgrade infrastructure as funding is committed. Ensuring that buildings are watertight and that the air conditioning and heating systems are functioning properly to allow libraries to serve as City heating and cooling centers, is critical. We are currently conducting infrastructure upgrades at several libraries.
However, many unmet capital improvement needs remain across the borough. These include both critical infrastructure such as roof replacements, elevator and ADA upgrades as well as expansions and renovations, which many communities have long sought. In total, the FY ‘15 capital needs for the Queens Library totals over $287 million. Critical infrastructure needs (that is, exterior envelope, ADA access and HVAC replacements) totals $18.6 million for FY 2015. This investment in the physical infrastructure is critical and valued in the community. We consistently see rises in usage as libraries are modernized and renovated.
Even a brand new library is useless if its doors are closed. Every single additional hour we are open means thousands of added opportunities for a customer to access information on the Internet, to ask a question, to prepare to take the High School Equivalency exam or to attend a community program. Every dollar invested in libraries creates dozens of new learning opportunities.
Public libraries have been, and will continue to be, the most democratic of institutions, offering free educational services and resources to every New Yorker. Now is the ideal time to reinvest in the people that make our City libraries great. We know you face some tough negotiations ahead. As you do, we urge you to remember the testimonials you heard today about how libraries literally change lives.
Again, I thank you for the support you have shown our institutions during the toughest of times. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Statement by Thomas W. Galante
President & Chief Executive Officer, Queens Library
Testimony before the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and
International Intergroup Relations jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries
New York City Council Fiscal Year 2015 Preliminary Budget, Mayor’s Preliminary Management Report and Agency Oversight
March 11, 2014
Good afternoon. I am Thomas Galante, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Queens Library. I want to begin by thanking the City Council and these committees for the opportunity to testify today, including: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Majority Leader and Chairman of the City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations; Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries; Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Finance Committee; and Council Member Mark Weprin, chair of the Queens Delegation.
Your leadership has supported public library service through the leanest times and will enable us to make enormous strides as we enter a new era in our city. More than any other institution, public libraries are ideally positioned in every community throughout the City to help close the opportunity gap and enrich the lives of every New Yorker by providing access to a wide range of educational and informational services.
The last few years have been challenging for everyone. During the Great Recession, the Executive Budget proposed massive budget reductions every year. Time and again, you made libraries a priority. Thanks to your support, with enormous budget restorations made at adoption each year by the City Council, we were able to provide strong community service despite these challenges. We maintained five-day-per-week service in every Queens Library location and protected those critical after-school hours in every community. It is a tribute to this body’s hard work and dedication that school children have a place to get homework help, get on a computer, and advance their academic skills every weekday in every Queens community.
Now that the Great Recession is over, let’s move forward together to restore the access to library services that was lost for the nearly 2.3 million people in Queens. The current City operating budget is now $16 million, or 17%, less than it was when the Great Recession began. This loss of operating support caused the reduction of 255 positions, including adult, teen and children’s librarians, clerks, and custodians. Public service hours were reduced substantially, with less than one-third of community libraries now open on Saturday and just two locations open on Sunday. Morning access and evening access were also lost in every community. The budget for new books and other library materials was reduced by 50%, leading to long waits for books and far fewer resources available to the 40,000 people who visit community libraries in Queens every day. Yet attendance at Queens Library’s programs remains sky-high.
We are now at an exciting crossroads. For the first time in seven (7) years, for FY 2015, the Preliminary Budget proposed by the Mayor keeps operating funding for public libraries stable next year. In addition, for the first time in several years, no mid-year budget reductions occurred this year. I can’t stress enough how grateful we are to have reached the starting point we are at, as budget discussions begin for next year.
The stabilization of City funding for library services makes an enormous difference in our ability to realistically plan for the future. It also means we can begin our work together to restore what was lost in the Great Recession: to rebuild the workforce, to restore our budget for new books, and also to expand library hours of operation for the public. Our goal is to be able to return our workforce to its prior levels; hiring for all 255 vacant positions; to start filling the shelves again and to expand hours of service in the early morning, into the evening and on weekends. Your investment in adding jobs for children’s librarians, teen librarians, adult librarians, custodians, and clerical staff will be returned many times over, as library doors open earlier and more often, and so many more people gain access to libraries and all their critical resources.
We believe that the people of Queens deserve the best library service available and access to those resources when they need them. Unfortunately, with the reductions in operating funding, we now have fewer hours than Boston, Chicago, Houston and Detroit. Yet, Queens Library ranks 5th in program attendance per capita among that same group of libraries, demonstrating the popularity, quality and range of the programs we offer. I would like to touch on a few of those areas and the value they deliver. Each of these areas could be expanded if the operating funding that was reduced is restored.
Workforce and Business Support
Workforce development training and job and business support emerged as critical library services during the recession. They will continue to be vital as the economy evolves. We are focusing these skills and resources into the Queens Library Job and Business Academy.
• Last year, Queens Library welcomed more than 20,000 attendees to job search and small business support programs.
• We recently launched an online experience called JobMap, where customers sign up, take an evaluation, and are then pointed to specific library resources such as resume-writing workshops or online learning opportunities.
• We have integrated a City Workforce One center inside Queens Library at Far Rockaway to seamlessly prepare and connect qualified library customers with real job opportunities.
The importance of technology in finding jobs and navigating the everyday world is only going to grow in the coming years — which makes it all the more vital that we reach people with limited access to digital devices.
• Last year, Queens Library provided nearly 3.3 million computer sessions on our 1,869 public access computers, and thousands more through library Wi-Fi.
• Queens Library is lending tablets in the Rockaways, where broadband Internet access is alarmingly low. The library’s proprietary interface makes these tablets easy to use, even for the uninitiated. This innovation has just won the American Library Association’s prestigious Library of the Future Award for 2014.
Educational Enrichment for all Ages
Public libraries are a critical component of the City’s education infrastructure — offering after-school enrichment, homework assistance, recreational programs, adult education and support to parents and youth, often within walking distance of school or home.
• In Queens, attendance for young adult programs doubled between 2002 and 2011. Last year, attendance at all after-school and out-of-school programming at Queens Library was nearly 450,000.
• We counted more than 267,000 visits from young learners who received early literacy, numeracy, and STEM literacy programs last year. Another 296,000 visitors enjoyed the collections and museum-quality learning exhibits at our Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica.
• Three-fourths of parents who recently took part in Queens Library’s Family Literacy Program improved their reading levels, 8% obtained jobs, others earned their citizenship, and all got more involved in their children’s reading activities.
• Last year, Queens Library provided English Language Learning or Adult Basic Education to 7,900 patrons. We are already the borough’s largest provider of ESOL, and we’re recognized internationally as a leading informal education provider for new residents.
• Queens Library has provided free citizenship, naturalization and bridge educational services to new immigrants for over 35 years, helping thousands each year.
• Queens Library is one of only six city-based organizations chosen to help pilot the new, online high school equivalency exam, helping the state achieve a goal of 60% of all HSE tests completed online by 2016.
With the tremendous support of this body, the commitments of individual Council Members, the State of New York, the Mayor and the Borough President of Queens, two-thirds of our community libraries have been modernized to include self-service technology that makes checking in materials a smoother, more efficient task for everyone. There is still more to do, including investments needed to protect and maintain libraries by replacing roofs, and heating and air conditioning systems. We seek your support in continuing to invest in our libraries and create and maintain spaces that serve every community at the highest level.
We are enormously proud of all our community libraries; their programs and the value they deliver for the community. Libraries in Queens are the borough’s largest providers of free technology – but you must be able to come in to access it. Libraries in Queens are the borough’s largest providers of free after school enrichment – but children must be able to come in to the library to take advantage of it. With the restoration of the operating budget, we can again deliver more of these benefits to even more people in even more places. For example, with the ability to hire more full-time children’s and teen librarians, we will permit more youngsters in the morning and more children after school to have access to assistance and engaging programs. Every single additional hour we are open means thousands of additional opportunities for a customer to access information on the Internet, to ask a question, to prepare to take the high school equivalency exam or to attend a community program. Every dollar invested in libraries creates dozens of new learning opportunities.
Today we hope to begin the conversation about what more libraries can offer if funded at historic 2008 levels. We know we can deliver extraordinary service to our customers. By taking a strong, decisive step this year towards greater access, we can multiply the results.
Public libraries have been, and will continue to be, the most democratic of institutions, offering free educational services and resources to every New Yorker. Together, through the worst of times, we have continued to maintain minimum five-day-a-week service in every community library. Now is the time to get back to six-day-a-week and seven-day-a-week service in every library throughout the borough.
Last month, we began unveiling our Playbook 2014, a blueprint for this year that will help us meet our goals. It focuses on four core areas: Powerful People, Powerful Programs, Powerful Partners, and Powerful Places.
With these concepts as our guiding star, and with you as our powerful partners, we can work together towards our mutual goals; to create new opportunity for all New Yorkers; to enrich their lives; to help them obtain the skills and resources to shoot higher, achieve more and succeed. Again, we are incredibly grateful for your leadership and support. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Jointly with the City Council Committee on Finance and the Sub Committee on Libraries
Oversight: Queens Library
February 5, 2014
Good morning. I am Thomas Galante, President and CEO of Queens Library and with me today is Bridget Quinn-Carey, Chief Operating Officer of Queens Library. I would like to thank the Chair of the Finance Committee, Council Member Julissa Ferreras; the Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer; the Chair of the Sub Committee on Libraries, Council Member Costa Constantinides; Queens Delegation Chair Mark Weprin; the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito and all the members of the committees and City Council. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today. I share the City Council’s commitment to transparency.
During the years that operating funding was reduced, capital funding for building improvements remained robust. We seized the opportunity to renovate and upgrade our facilities, so that as the economy improves, Queens Library is positioned to be better than ever before. Moreover, through private fund raising and grants, our program areas have expanded into new, important directions to serve the immediate needs of our patrons, such as better access to job training and preparation for the new High School Equivalency exams. Capital investments have improved the physical environment and we are nearing a full recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
* When the new Queens Library at Glen Oaks opened in June 2013, replacing an old library that was half the size, it shot up to one of the highest circulating libraries in the borough. In the old building, it was consistently in the bottom third.
* In Corona, a 2005 renovation expanded the library by 50 percent (7,000 square feet). When it reopened, program attendance skyrocketed 56%.
* Last year, the Library purchased commercial space and converted it into the new library at Mitchell-Linden. This reduced rental expense costs for the old rental library building. Now, we have a beautiful new library for the public, all new work areas for our employees, at the same cost as in the old, outmoded building. We’ve more than doubled visitorship in the new location and program attendance is also up 30 percent.
* To return the Queens Library in Jamaica to the world-class library its patrons deserve through a complete reconfiguration and renovation of all public areas on all levels.
* To modernize public and employee spaces including the first floor Teen, Adult and Cyber areas, lower levels, and second floor support department areas.
* To implement self-service technology that allows 24/7 returns and automatic return and sorting system that handles two (2) million volumes annually.
* To increase the space of the Adult Learning Center through construction and outfitting to serve more people seeking English Language Learning and Adult Basic Education.
* To upgrade the auditorium and adjacent community rooms and restrooms in the lower level that will attract marquee and high-profile authors and speakers to Queens.
* Updating the 47-year-old, inefficient infrastructure to be energy and cost efficient.
* To consolidate 6,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet of public space currently housed in a nearby rental facility into the second floor of this building to save $156,000 in ongoing annual rental costs. Over the expiring 15-year lease period, this is an operating expense that has totaled $1.8 million, which we now are able to achieve in savings beginning next year.