2011-06-15 / Features

Sign Of Library Support In LIC

BY LIZ GOFF

A Long Island City civic leader is reading the riot act to the Bloomberg administration officials and the City Council over a city cost-cutting plan that would drastically reduce funding for Queens Library services.

George Stamatiades, former president of the Queens Library board of trustees, last weekend strung an eight-foot banner from the front porch of his Dutch Kills home that reads, “To dump the library in the name of budget cuts is like burning down your house to save on the electric bill.”

Stamatiades said he hopes the message, which he credits as part of a March 28 story in the Bergen Record, which features news for Northern New Jersey and Metropolitan New York City, will encourage city officials to rethink budget cost cutting proposals that could result in $25.3 million in service cuts to the Queens Library.

“It’s an effort to make a statement to the city council and Mayor Bloomberg, to make sure funding continues to flow to the libraries,” Stamatiades said. “Hopefully, it will give our elected officials an awareness of how critical it is to maintain services offered by the public library system. Today’s libraries are more than just a place to get books,” said Stamatiades, who currently serves as a Queens Library trustee. “They are community nerve centers that provide learning and social services for everyone from preschoolers to seniors.

“People go to the library to learn how to read and write. For many people, the library is their only hope to learn English and obtain computer access for educational research.

“Libraries open doors to new worlds and opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach for so many people,” Stamatiades said.

The estimated $25.3 million funding cuts threaten the jobs of 471 Queens Library workers, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said. “The cuts will result in 48 Queens Library branches being closed four or five days per week leaving only 13 libraries open Monday through Friday, all Queens library branches will be closed on Sundays and only the Central Library branch in Jamaica will open on Saturdays.”

Van Bramer declared, “The cuts also mean 13,000 fewer free programs, 1.5 million fewer free computer services, no weekly library access or homework help for 5,000 school children and 1.5 million unanswered requests for information through the library reference center.”

At a May 18 rally at the Flushing Library, Thomas Galante, chief executive officer of the Queens Library, said that support from the communities could turn the tide, helping to convince Bloomberg and the city council to restore library funding in the city’s 2012 Executive Budget.

Galante hosted the rally attended by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Van Bramer, where he urged Queens residents to sign petitions calling for restored services to the Queens Library. The petitions may be signed, through June 30th, at the Flushing Library branch on Main Street, at neighborhood library branches, or online at www.savequeenslibrary.org.

Van Bramer will collect the petitions and deliver them to the mayor’s office and the city council on July 1st, the kickoff of the annual city budget battle.

Galante said 2011 marks the fourth consecutive year that the Queens Library has suffered through city budget cuts. A statement released by the Queens Library said the proposed 2012 funding cuts will reduce library services to the lowest levels ever.

Van Bramer applauded Stamatiades’ effort to reach out to the community in support of the Queens Library.

“Libraries provide invaluable services and programs that enrich our communities and improve the academic performance of children in our schools.” The Queens lawmaker vowed to work tirelessly with the city council and library advocates, to restore as much funding as possible.

Stamatiades said he plans to keep the sign outside his front door throughout city budget negotiations as a reminder to residents and local lawmakers, that the future of the Queens Library service is in their hands.

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