Jamaica Avenue was once an ancient trail used by Native American tribes, from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, coming to the area to trade skins and furs for wampum. It was in 1655 that the first settlers paid the Native Americans two guns, a coat and some gunpowder for the land lying between the old trail and “Beaver Pond,” which would later become Baisley Pond. Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant dubbed the area Rustdorp, meaning Quiet Village, when granting the patent for the area. Taken over by the English, in 1664, the area was renamed Jameco, which would eventually become Jamaica, because it was first inhabited by the Jameco, or Yamecah Indians, whose name means beaver in Algonquian. South Jamaica, which consisted of an area of scattered farms, in the mid nineteenth century, quickly became its own entity with the 1913 completion of the Long Island Railroad Station, nearby.
South Jamaica, which has the largest African-American population in the borough of Queens, fought long and hard to become the home of the fiftieth branch of the Queens Borough Public Library. Library service in the area began in the form of a bookmobile which made five weekly stops, bringing a variety of materials to eager residents. While making do with the bookmobile service, community leaders battled for almost twenty years for a neighborhood library to service residents who had to travel by bus or car to reach the main branch, in Jamaica, or the Queens Village Branch. Finally, in October 1961, the South Jamaica Branch opened for business at 110-36 New York Boulevard, in a building owned by Bethel Gospel Tabernacle.
As the South Jamaica community continued to grow and demands on library resources increased dramatically the branch clearly needed a new home. On December 20th, 1999, after months of preparation the branch opened for business in its spanking new, environmentally controlled building at 108-41 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, two blocks from its previous location. The state-of-the-art “green architecture” structure was the first of its kind in New York City, using optimal natural lighting to control the internal environment. The Community Library’s present location is approximately two-and-a half times as large as the former site with its own children’s room and a meeting room which can accommodate up to fifty people.
In 2007 the South Jamaica Community Library was renovated to include a full service Teen Area, with its own computers. The library is now fully automated with self check out stations and an automatic book return.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one of two American men and one of three American women will have some type of cancer at some point during their lifetime. Queens Library HealthLink seeks to increase access to cancer screening and cancer treatment among medically underserved communities in Queens. Queens Library HealthLink is a partnership between Queens Library, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Queens Cancer Center of Queens Hospital and the American Cancer Society.