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New literacy center planned for village

Library officials and community leaders break ground on the new expansion of the Adult Learning Center at the Rochdale Village branch of the Queens Library. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

The popular literacy program at the Rochdale Village branch of the Queens Library that has helped expand opportunities for adults is itself about to get a lot more room to grow.

On Friday, the library ceremonially broke ground on the planned $4.1 million expansion of the Adult Learning Center, which when completed will be more than double its current size.

“In a few weeks we’re going to blow out the east wall,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante, who told a packed room in the library, at 169-09 137th Ave., that the new space would include a computer listening station, a conversation space and an outdoor garden.

“Oh, I’ve got more here on my list,” he said, adding that the renovation will also include a second handicapped accessible bathroom, a new heating and air-conditioning system, upgraded fire protection, masonry repair and a new roof for the building.

The new center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

Michael Semple, the center’s manager, said many visitors come in with inadequate reading skills and leave ready to take their GEDs or to apply to further their education and enhance their résumés.

During renovations, the library will remain open and the adult learning center will continue to provide services at the Laurelton branch, although Semple said he was trying to arrange for a space in the Rochdale Village community center for those visitors who could not make the trip to the neighboring branch.

Headly Logan is one of the 200 to 300 adults who use the center annually.

The 71-year-old said that as a youngster he was too busy working to attend class, but later in life he realized the importance of being able to read.

“When I go on a plane I have to fill out a form, and when I go to a restaurant I have to read the menu. I also like to pick up the newspaper,” said Logan, a retiree who visits the center two days a week. “These are things that are really important. I have grandkids and it’s very important to read something to them.”

Library spokeswoman Joanne King said demand for the program has grown because people have become more aware of it and realize the need for more education in today’s job market.

Funding for the project was allocated by City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) and Borough President Helen Marshall through the efforts of the Friends of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center.

Wills said it was fitting the nearby children’s section of the library was buzzing as community members gathered to herald the new adult learning center.

“That’s what Rochdale and southeast Queens are all about — every generation making sure they take care of each one,” he said.

Marshall reminded those gathered that it was the community’s money she had allocated and called it a wise investment.

“The new center will provide the opportunity for adults and retirees to get back into the game and explore old and new interests,” she said. “Now let’s break some ground!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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