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Cuts to Maspeth, Mid Vil libraries’ hours spark outcry

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The elimination of Saturday service at the Maspeth and Middle Village branches of the Queens Borough Public Library has sparked a protest from the Juniper Park Civic Association, but library officials warn the situation will only get worse before it improves.

The Middle Village library at 72-31 Metropolitan Ave. and the Maspeth library at 69-70 Grand Ave. are among 14 branches boroughwide that are being shuttered on Saturdays starting this weekend, a change that reduces their operation to a five-day-a-week, Monday through Friday schedule.

The cutbacks are part of the Queens Borough Public Library’s efforts to reduce costs in response to the budget cuts imposed by the city.

But Robert Holden, the president of the Middle Village-based Juniper Park Civic Association, decried library officials’ decision to end Saturday hours at both libraries that serve the civic’s community.

“There’s not too many libraries close by where people can get to. They’re proposing both. It doesn’t give people much choice and it’s really counterpro­ductive,” Holden said. “The Queens Public Library’s decision to keep the buildings closed, locking out people on Saturdays for the sake of a few hundred dollars a day, is wasteful, counterproductive and foolish.”

The Ridgewood branch at 20-12 Madison St. and the Glendale branch at 78-60 73rd Place have maintained their Saturday hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Three main library branches at Jamaica, Flushing and Jackson Heights will remain open seven days a week, a disparity the civic contends is unfair.

Gary Strong, the library director, responded in a statement that budget cuts made it impossible to avoid Saturday closures, which will be extended in the spring to include a total of 48 branches. The system has 63 branches in all.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the Juniper Park Civic Association’s assessment of the importance of libraries in our community,” Strong said. “The closings were chosen to maximize the opportunity for children to continue their education day by still having places during the week to go after school to study and do homework.”

Strong called on community leaders to lobby their elected officials for the restoration of library funding.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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