The Queens Public Library is the largest public library system in the entire nation. It serves a population of just under 2 million people, and there are over 800,000 library card holders. In 1998 alone Queens Public Libraries were utilized by about 15 million people, that's more people than the New York Public Library and the Los Angeles Public Library. Through its 63 locations throughout the Borough of Queens the Public Library serves a wide range of people, and provides a number of services. Customers utilizing the Queens Public Library are able to obtain books, videotapes, and audio cassettes from any of the local branch libraries as well as the central library.
In addition to circulating books and tapes The Queens Public Library currently sponsors many special programs designed to assist the residents of Queens with a wide range of issues affecting their lives. The library has created an adult literacy program. Included in this program are tutorial services, computer-assisted instruction programs, as well as various other workshops designed at enabling adults to acquire basic reading skills. The Library also provides a number of services to our immigrant population. There are materials available to assist individuals with learning the English language, as well as books available in many different languages. Various concerts and workshops are available, which are meant to enhance our appreciation of other cultures as well as preserve them. Immigrants can also attend lectures, where the topics include: citizenship information, job training, and information on various other social services.
The Library also provides programs for the children and young adults of Queens. Each of the libraries has a collection of children's books, and also provides activities aimed at entertaining younger children. These include story telling sessions, puppet shows, and music. After school programs are also available to provide extracurricular activities as well as homework assistance to school aged children. During the summer months there is a Summer Reading Club which works to encourage children to read while on summer vacation. There are also many resources available to high school and college students. The library can be an excellent vehicle for conducting research, and customers have access to the internet as well as a wealth of books.
One of the major challenges facing the Queens Public Library today concerns the library's budget. Last year Queens libraries experienced a substantial increase in circulation. Despite this increase the Mayor of the City of New York proposed cutting funding to the Queens Library by over $ 11 million. The City Council voted to restore this funding but more is needed. In order for the Queens Public Library to continue to expand and create more programs, especially in a time when technology is rapidly developing, more funding is needed from the City. The Queens Public Library relies heavily on the City for operational funding. Monies allocated by the City amount to over 50 % of the libraries budget. The library is currently mobilizing Queens residents to lobby their City Council members, to request an increase in funding. Anyone who would like to know more about contacting their City Council member on behalf of the library may contact Mr. Jimmy Van Bramer of the Queens Public Library at (718) 990-0705.
The State of New York also provides funding for the Queens Public Library, but the amount provided is significantly lower than that provided by the City. Currently, however, there is a bill pending in the State Assembly which would assist all libraries state wide including the Queens Library. One of our local State Representatives, Assemblyman Michael Cohen is a sponsor of this legislation, which would amend the Tax Law and the State Finance Law. This bill would provide a check off on personal income tax forms, allowing a contribution to be made to The New York Library Assistance Fund.
In addition to funding, our libraries need community involvement to survive. There are several ways in which citizens can become involved with, and support their local branch libraries. There are opportunities for teens as well as adults to volunteer as tutors to assist internet and computer users. Individuals can also volunteer and assist with various workshops and aid in the implementation of other programs provided by the libraries. People can also act as advocates for the Queens Library. Many Queens residents participated in the library's lobby day in Albany, where people met with legislators to request the passage of two budget items providing funding to the library. There is an excellent opportunity now to aid in communicating with the City Council to ask for more funding. People can also join the Friends Group of their local library to help with various needs of the library. Please remember that our libraries contain the collected knowledge not only of our country but our civilization. This wealth of information is available to all. Therefore, it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the library's survival. Not only as a service to ourselves, but also to our children.