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Point of View: Officials must act to protect Flushing Library

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With a population of more than 2 million, the Queens Library system boasts the highest circulation of any public library system...

By George Tsai

In a civilized society, visiting the library has become part of the daily routine of people seeking to broaden their horizons.

With a population of more than 2 million, the Queens Library system boasts the highest circulation of any public library system in the nation, making it the top-ranked city library. It is also the fifth largest library in terms of the number of locations and the population served.

It sounds like Queens has more intellectuals than any other borough.

Among the 62 or so libraries in the system, the Flushing Library is perhaps the newest, most popular and best-used.

Like many others in the system, the Flushing Library stays open seven days a week from mid-September to mid-May. It closes its doors on Sundays from May 28 to mid-September.

To the disappointment of librarygoers, that may change if the state and the city succeed in slashing the library budget. And it is expected to happen pretty soon.

Sunday closings should not apply to libraries in Queens with the rapid growth of hard-working new immigrants, who do not have the luxury of visiting the library on weekdays.

The Flushing Library attracts many people every day. Every time I visit this facility I can hardly find an empty chair, which shows that the library has more drawing power than many other facilities in town.

Its cozy auditorium in the basement plays a vital role in promoting understanding of ethnic cultures. From time to time local groups present lectures and entertainment there.

Some new immigrants here consider the library a favorite place to spend their free time reading magazines and newspapers in their native languages. And some students do their homework using its computers in an academic atmosphere.

The proposed $10 million budget cuts would force Queens libraries to reduce hours of operation.

In addition to that, the library system may have to curtail its subscriptions of certain periodicals, halt purchases of new books, upgrade its computer system or forgo other social events.

It’s a shame the budget cuts come at a time when our sick economy is marching toward a robust recovery.

On June 10 the TimesLedger carried a story reporting that Independence Community Bank offered a $100,000 matching grant for the system. Some other organizations may follow suit. How about next year?

College Point also is a fast-growing township in Queens, so is its library, which looks gorgeous after an extensive renovation with a ramp for the disabled. A great number of immigrants, mostly Asian, have moved to that town. The library may have to subscribe to more publications to meet the growing demand. Where is the money?

The library closes its doors on Saturdays and Sundays. It seems the schedule is good for retirees but not for working people. That runs counter to its mission to serve the general public.

Lately, local politicians and residents have joined force in decrying the proposed cuts, and I hope their angry voices will be heard in Albany and in the City Council.

Libraries should be the last target of budget cuts. The system is part of public education, which is what politicians of all levels often stress during their campaigns for offices.

There is good news, nevertheless. Flushing’s business improvement district has taken a giant step toward beautifying downtown. Rectangular banners with “Welcome to Flushing” are seen flying on sidewalk poles in busy intersections, mimicking tourism gimmicks in bigger metropolitan areas such as Manhattan. The stripe’s design and color will change according to the season. This signifies a good start.

But a few BID members already have begun to gripe about their monetary contributions to the program, which was put into operation just six months ago. As a result, the BID plans to pare its budget down by 20 percent, according to local media.

Remember, folks, you reap what you sow.

In the meantime, the BID should pay more attention to the town’s negative sides, such as the dirty conditions caused by 40th Road’s abundant eateries. The other day I saw merchants and pedestrians complaining about the filth on that road, with dirty puddles and a foul smell.

Cleansing that road, therefore, should be the BID’s top priority, or else the lingering problem will tarnish the town’s image the group is trying to brighten. As a frequent diner patron, I think vehicles should be barred from that street; they are mainly to blame for the environmental woes plaguing that narrow road.

Flushing restaurants recently formed an association to advance their own causes. Congratulations! I hope they will take swift action to wrestle the environmental problems and enhance their storefronts’ appearance.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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