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LIC students rally for library

Students from PS 111 hold up signs in support of the Long Island City branch of the Queens Library. The library is facing numerous cuts in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive budget. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Employees from the Queens Library run various classes for little boys and girls, but with its volley last Thursday against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed cuts, the library taught PS 111 and Voice Charter School students a lesson in protest and metaphor.

Employees of the Long Island City branch, at 37-44 21st St., hosted a “Broke Down” Carnival for more children to illustrate the effects of the proposed $26.7 million in cuts to the 62-branch system. The students played a bean bag tossing game in which some of the holes were taped up, or spun a wheel for prizes where most of the triangles on the wheel were marked “closed.”

Afterward, a chorus from the Voice Charter School sang songs, advocates spoke on behalf of the library and the children held a protest outside the Long Island City branch.

“We want our library to be open every day, every day for our children,” said Symphony Davis, president of Friends of the Long Island City Library.

The Queens Library has said it will need to close 18 libraries, cut hours and lay off more than 600 people if the cuts stand.

The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Both PS 111 and Voice Charter School are in the same building, at 37-15 13th St. in Long Island City, which is on the same block as the library.

Maritza Herrera, another member of the Friends of the Long Island City Library, said the library offers homework help and tutoring for students of both schools.

“This library provides so much,” she said.

Syann Gonzalez, 12, who was one of the 100 or so students who attended the carnival and protest, said she visits the library every day it is open.

“We want to read books,” she said. “We want to do our homework.”

Naji Muhammad, 13, said he not only does his homework at the library, but he also participates in special programs, like the one where he learned to play drums. He says he loves reading graphic novels he borrows from the library.

“It is a place where I can do many fun things and stay out of trouble,” Naji said.

Joanne King, spokeswoman for the Queens Library, said she hopes the students will take back the news of the cuts to their parents. She said the library has had to take budget cuts ever since the economic crash and its budget has been reduced by 42 percent since 2008.

“The staff is cut down to the bones,” King said. “We can’t do any more.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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