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Library supporters rally against proposed cuts

Queens Library Guild 1321 President John Hyslop invites library supporters to share the reasons they love their library. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

Supporters of the Queens Library stood outside the central library on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica Tuesday to rally against a proposed $26.7 million funding cut from the city that administrators said would be detrimental to services.

Since the middle of 2008, the borough’s library system has seen its funding cut each year, resulting in annual reductions of services.

When supporters rallied last year against cuts outside the Jamaica library, it was open at 10 a.m. This year the rally kicked off at noon, an hour before the library opened at 1 p.m. — a result of last year’s $3.8 million in cuts.

“It seems like every year we have to go fight for our libraries to get their funding,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “It’s unbelievable we have to do this.”

The doomsday scenario that would occur if none of the proposed $26.7 million in cuts were restored would mean the library would have to lay off 605 employees and close 18 branches. A total of 30 libraries would have to be closed four out of five days a week, and only one library would be open on Saturdays.

John Hyslop, president of the Queens Library Guild 1321, invited library patrons to step up to a microphone in front of the building and share what they would miss if their branch had to close.

John Lafferty said he has been coming to the library since he moved to Queens 24 years ago. The books, technology and expertise of the staff are indispensable, he said.

“The staff needs to be here longer and the hours have to be longer as well,” he said.

Fourth-grader Alejandro Vallejo said he uses the library’s computer lab to do his homework.

“When my computer teacher gives me work to do, I come here to the lab to do my work,” he said.

While the library system is looking for elected officials to restore funding, it got a hand from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which has partnered with the Queens Library to launch a new program to bring cultural events to the borough’s libraries.

The initiative, entitled Lincoln Center Local, consists of seven hour-long performances and Q&A sessions this summer with musicians, dancers and actors.

The programs were selected by library patrons, who voted both at their local libraries and online, and are scheduled to run from July 7 to Sept. 15.

The center is funding the program at no cost to the library’s budget, but certain shows may be affected if the library has to close branches.

For more information on the Queens Library budget, visit savequeenslibrary.org. To learn more about Lincoln Center Local, go to about.lincolncenter.org/lclocal.

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

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