Libraries Are Queens’ Treasures
In an age of e-mail and search engines that transmit information almost instantaneously, libraries seem to have no place and little use. It would seem that civic fiscal policy makers feel likewise. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2013 calls for a reduction in funding of $26.7 million for the Queens Borough Public Library. This is grim news, indeed.
Libraries offer so much more than books and periodicals. In the Queens Library system, books, records, tapes, DVDs, classes on English as a second language, lectures on an almost endless variety of subjects, author readings, musical performances, access to health screenings and much more are all available for free or in rare instances, at very low cost. For children with working parents, which includes almost every household with youngsters under 18 in the borough of Queens, libraries offer a safe place for youngsters to do their homework and keep themselves entertained during the critical hours from 3 to 6 p.m., when most crimes committed by unsupervised juveniles occur. Many of those youngsters and more than a few adults find that their only access to a computer is their neighborhood library. Truly, libraries are a blessing for all who use them.
But the system’s legendary ability to do more with less is obviously stretched to its limits. A threatened 31 percent slash in the library’s budget would mean the laying off of 605 people, the closing of 18 library branches altogether, 30 libraries closed four or five days per week, only one library in Queens open on Saturdays and no Sunday library service in Queens at all. The borough would go back to the Dark Ages, as far as libraries are concerned. These cuts cannot be allowed to happen.
Libraries enhance the quality of life for every user. These bastions of knowledge and culture cannot have their budgets cut to the point where the system is barely sustainable. For the sake of the future of the borough, the shining beacon that is the Queens Library must have its budget cuts restored. For Queens to maintain its reputation as a place where all Americans, be they young or old, new members of the Queens family or the latest of many generations with deep roots in the borough’s soil, the library system must have its cuts restored as soon as possible. We who call this proud borough home can do no less for ourselves and the generations that will follow us.