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Pols protest cuts to library

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About 200 people gathered at the Flushing branch during torrential rains last week to protest proposed cuts to the Queens Library system.

The showing mirrored the 234 pink slips the system’s CEO, Thomas Galante, issued earlier this month in response to the proposed funding decreases.

The May 18 rally was moved from the steps of the library, at 41-17 Main St., to the auditorium due to the inclement weather, but the change of venue did not dampen the enthusiasm of the many book lovers who attended or the politicians and library officials who spoke movingly about the need to protect library funding.

“Libraries provide invaluable services and programs that enrich our communities and improve the academic performance of children in our schools. I will work tirelessly with my colleagues in the City Council as well as advocates to restore as much as funding as possible,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

As of fiscal year 2010, Queens Library system had 23 million items in circulation, making it one of the highest-circulation public library systems in the world.

Now chairman of the Council Cultural Affairs & Libraries Committee, Van Bramer worked for the Queens Library for 11 years before taking office.

Under the city’s executive budget released last week, the Queens Library system’s funding would be slashed by $25.3 million in fiscal year 2012. Though many predict the cuts will be watered down during negotiations, the reality of what such a large reduction in funding would do to borough libraries is stunning, opponents of the plan say.

Under the proposed budget, 471 staffers would be laid off in Queens, 48 borough libraries would be closed four or five days per week, only 13 central branches would be open five days a week in Queens, the Central Branch in Jamaica would be the only one open on Saturdays and there would be no Sunday library service at all in the borough, according to Queens Library spokeswoman Joanne King. Libraries provide a wide range of cultural and educational events and resources to the communities they serve.

Speakers at the event included Galante; Borough President Helen Marshall; Councilmen Van Bramer, Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone); and representatives for Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing).

Don Capalbi, an aide for Meng, spoke on her behalf about the way libraries are treasured by readers from all walks of life.

“This room is so full of people from across this borough’s diverse population,” he said. “Students need the libraries, seniors need the libraries, our whole community depends on the Queens Library system.”

The rally was one of several this month aimed at keeping Queens libraries open. More than 20 bibliophiles and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) gathered May 5 at the Douglaston/Little Neck branch to protest the cuts.

A march drew dozens Saturday to Rockaway Beach, where library lovers walked along the boardwalk to raise awareness of the cuts before rallying at Queens Library at Peninsula. A rally will be held ´╗┐at 12 p.m. Thursday on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan, to which the Queens Library system is providing a bus to transport supporters from several Queens branches.

For more information or to sign a petition in support of borough libraries, visit savequeenslibrary.org.

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

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