The union representing the borough’s librarians and other employees took their fight to the streets Tuesday against proposed $16.9 million in city cuts.
Dozens of representatives from Queens Library Guild Local 1321 gathered outside the Central Library Branch and called on the mayor and City Council to rethink its budget proposal. The library could see nearly $17 million in cuts come July 1 and that would result in 329 employee layoffs, 14 branch closures and reduction in hours at other locations, according to union heads.
“Worst case scenario, the library will be going back to the Dark Ages,” the union’s president, Margalit Susser, said. The Queens Library System is the busiest in the nation.
Nearly 30 workers joined City Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) outside the branch with homemade posters and T-shirts.
Although Leslie Dann, a Queens librarian for 16 years who currently works at the Hillcrest branch, said she is not likely to get the pink slip, she came out in support of her fellow library workers.
“Without a good staff, I wouldn’t be able to serve the public in Queens,” she said.
Aside from a smaller staff, the union leader said the cuts would hurt the 2.2 million library users around the borough because it would hinder the services the branches offer. The union also represents the clerical workers who take care of the equipment, such as the book scanners and computers, and offer guidance to those who are not tech-savvy.
Without them, library users would not have a helping hand with new technologies, according to Susser.
“People are looking for jobs and now only employers take résumés from the computer. They are using our facilities,” the former Queens librarian said.
Over the last couple of weeks, the library and its supporters have been holding similar rallies at branches to protest the cuts. Library officials have been applauding the protests and have been working with elected officials to try and save the budget.
“People in Queens need, and deserve, computer access, homework help for their children, assistance in searching for jobs, literacy help, health care information and all the other benefits their libraries provide. We are doing everything in our power through this budget process to preserve funding, which preserves jobs to deliver public library access,” Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante said in a statement.
The union has also been making outreach to the elected officials by mailing them post cards and distributing petition slips at branches. Susser said she hopes something can be done to save the future of her members, because the job means a lot to them professionally and personally.
“For many people, the library is like a second home and the staff is family,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2010 Community News Group
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