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Queens Library lands help from boro bank

As Queens Library faces a $17 million funding cut in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed executive budget and about 300 staffers have been told they may be laid off in August, it is getting help where it can.

Last week, the library announced that the Queens County Savings Bank is hosting a $100,000 campaign to match donations to the library over the next several months to help buy new materials.

The borough library system’s Flushing branch, the busiest in New York state, also celebrated a rare piece of good news in the wake of the economic crisis with a ceremony for the opening of its new cyber center, media center, teen center and quiet room.

The matching grant campaign is an effort by the bank to help the financially strapped library purchase books and other materials. The bank has provided funding to the library before through four previous donation-matching campaigns.

Joseph Ficalora, president and CEO of New York Community Bancorp, of which Queens County Savings is a division, has been instrumental in arranging funding for the library, according to Joanne King, associate director for communications at Queens Library.

“Joe Ficalora has been a tremendous library supporter. He’s been president of Queens Library Foundation and he’s currently president of the board of trustees of Queens Library,” King said. “So he’s very supportive of our mission, and through his bank philanthropy and personal philanthropy he’s helpful to the library in providing leadership and financial support.”

The campaign will run for several months, but the exact end-date for the match has not been released because of concerns that it might discourage people from donating, King said.

“Libraries are special places that provide so many resources to a community,” Ficalora said. “It is Queens County Savings Bank’s distinct honor to support them as long-term partners with the Queens Library Foundation.”

The Flushing branch gave a tour of its newly opened facilities last Thursday to city Comptroller John Liu, state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante.

The media center houses DVD and CD collections and offers self-check-out technology. The teen center is built to attract teenagers and give them a place of their own in the facility and the cyber center includes 38 brand-new public-use computers. The improvements cost a total of $1.3 million, which came to the library in the form of city and state funding as well as a small amount of private donations.

“The Flushing Library was opened in ‘98, and it’s such a heavily used library and the needs of the community, especially in needs of technology, that it was amazingly in need of renovation and this is part of a larger renovation being done in phases so the building doesn’t have to be completely shut down during construction,” King said. “There was not a separate teen area when it was originally built. The idea of a separate media center wasn’t really part of the plan when it was originally built because DVDs weren’t invented then and we needed a larger quiet area.”

The next phase of construction will install a canopy and outdoor drop-off site in front of the library and was expected to be completed by the fall but will likely take longer because it is currently still under review.

The overall renovation designs have been in the works for about two years, according to King, and construction began about eight months ago. Often the system would simply shut down a branch for a period of months in order to complete construction as quickly as possible, but because Flushing’s branch is so popular, that would be unfeasible, King said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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