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Queens Public Library director to resign post

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After leading America’s busiest public library system for nine years, Gary Strong, director of the Queens Borough Public Library, will leave his post this summer.

Strong, who pushed for technological advances in the system and opened three new facilities, has been appointed to be university librarian at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to a release from the school.

Strong will leave the Queens system in mid-August to start at UCLA in September, said Joe Catrambone, a spokesman for the Queens Library.

“My experiences here in Queens have been exciting and fulfilling,” said Strong in a statement. “I have had the opportunity to work with the finest board and staff in the world.”

Strong, 58, joined the Queens Borough Public Library in 1994 after serving as California state librarian for 14 years. Under his direction the Queens libraries achieved the highest circulation levels of any public system in the nation, reaching 16.8 million items and 16.3 million visits for the fiscal year ending June 2002.

Three new facilities — Flushing Library, Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, and the South Jamaica branch — were added to the library system during Strong’s tenure. The library has its central branch on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, a total of 62 community facilities and six adult learning centers throughout the borough.

The library has also become an international leader, catering to the most ethnically diverse population in the country. In 1996, the library began offering its library catalog through the Internet with information available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

That year the library also introduced WorldLinQ, a multilingual Web-based data system to provide information in a variety of languages. Five modules are now available, including Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Russia, as well as English. The library hopes to add other major languages spoken by Queens residents.

“Under Strong’s leadership the library has moved into the international arena and has maintained its position as the leading public library in the nation,” said George Stamatiades, president of the library board.

Strong also oversaw the opening of the Cyber Center at the Central Library in 1999. The Cyber Center features 48 computer workstations to provide Queens residents with greater access to technology and the Internet.

Over the past few years Strong has also fought to maintain funding levels from the increasingly strapped city budget. The city took $3.5 million from the library budget in 2002 and in November Bloomberg proposed another $6 million cut.

“We still have many challenges to meet in the months ahead and I am committed to working through this fiscal year to meet those challenges and continue the success that we have achieved,” Strong said.

At UCLA, Strong will head one of the top 10 research libraries in the country, encompassing more than 7.6 million volumes, the university said.

“Gary Strong brings to UCLA his outstanding credentials and a wealth of experience in both the public and private library systems,” said UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale. “The UCLA Library is an important intellectual link between our campus and the global community and will surely benefit from Gary Strong’s experience.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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