Budget Cuts Could Close Some Queens’ Libraries
Mayor Bloomberg’s budget ax could chop a quarter of the libraries in Queens, The Wave learned on Wednesday. That information came to light while speaking with library staff at a rally to save the Far Rockaway Library, and the newspaper was told that pink slips have already gone out to staff at a number of those libraries.
Sharon Anderson, the branch manager of the Far Rockaway library, said more than 300 Queens Library employees have already received pink slips. In addition 14 libraries in the Queens system could close and two local ones could be among them, reportedly Arverne and Broad Channel.
Evelyn Scott, who works at the Arverne Library is one of those who recently got her lay-off notice.
“Yes, I got my notice,” said Scott, adding, “I don’t know what branches are closing but they are going to send slips [to employees at] the 14 branches that will be closing and Arverne may be one of them.”
Scott and Anderson also said that the Broad Channel Library could be shut. According to an email from Queens Library HealthLink coordinators Tamara Michel and Eilleen Sabino, who work out of the Central branch of the Queens Library on Merrick Boulevard, the threat of closures are very real.
“Queens Library is facing a potential funding cut of $16.9 million this year, or a cumulative 30 percent reduction of our budget. If we don’t avert this staggering loss, libraries in every part of the borough could be closed outright and many others would be closed four and five days per week, one third of programs could be slashed and hundreds of library employees could lose their jobs. We cannot let this happen! At a time when record numbers of people are using the libraries to access vital services like job searching tools, free internet, English classes, after school programs and health services/ info, this would deal a deep and damaging blow to Queens neighborhoods.” Anderson also said, “We don’t know for sure [which branches are closing] but we know we’ve been hit hard enough for him [Bloomberg] to even suggest 14 closings. That’s something that’s never been done before in the history of the library. That’s why we are out here [protesting], because we are looking at hard, serious times.
In total more than 400 people, 30 percent of the staff in the Queens Library system could be laid off with the remaining libraries being open only two or three days a week..
A spokesperson for the Queens Library told The Wave on Wednesday, however, that no firm decisions as to building closings have yet been made, and probably won’t be made until the end of April, after the state approves its budget. “Everything now is speculation and rumor,” the spokesperson said. “No decisions have been made.”