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Queens Libraries Stay Open

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The Queens Borough Public Library was one of the winners in the city’s budget war, getting an additional $2.2 million to ensure five-day-a week service at 50 branches, a library spokesman said.

The funds, a total of $4.2 million in restored money, will also save 144 jobs that were scheduled to be cut, said Joe Catrambone, the library’s spokesman.

“We were able to preserve our current service levels, and the massive layoffs we were fearing were averted,” he said.

The Queens library system received $4.2 million as part of a total package of restorations to the city’s libraries. More than $8 million was put back as part of the final budget deal.

But the library and its 63 branches have still lost $10 million from their overall budget since 2001, meaning less money for book purchases, programming and building maintenance, Catrambone said.

“We’re still suffering from cuts,” he said. “At least the major disruptions have been averted.”

The 144 layoffs that were planned under the mayor’s original cuts to the budget would have affected the public service staff — the librarians, who receive a starting salary of $33,000, and the clerks, who make $19,000 to start, said John Socha, the president of the Library Guild local that represents the library employees. The 144 positions would have been the equivalent of the staff at 18 of the 63 branches, he said.

“We’re thrilled about it,” Socha said. “Both the people scheduled to be laid off and those that are thinking to themselves that, ‘Gee, I’m going to have to do all the work in this branch whether I have help or not.’”

The library has had to suspend weekend service at 50 branches, and end Sunday service at all but three locations, Catrambone said. The Central Library, the Flushing Library and the Jackson Heights branch were open seven days a week through May 18, when Sunday service was suspended for the summer.

The library has also launched a fund-raising campaign to benefit library programs, such as summer reading, the book budget and building maintenance, Catrambone said. Responses and pledges have just started coming in and a total was not available, he said.

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

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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