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Library supporters rally in Flushing against cuts

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Supporters of the Queens Library rallied in front of the Flushing branch on Main Street Tuesday to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to slash the borough library system’s budget by 30 percent.

“Our budget is under threat to be drastically cut at a time when we’re needed most,” Queens Library Executive Director Tom Galante said.

He said the proposed $16.9 million cut would mean 13 libraries in the borough’s system would have to close, 400 library employees — or 44 percent of the workforce — would be laid off, dozens of branches would be reduced to opening two or three days in a week and the system’s book budget would be cut.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall called Bloomberg’s plan “disgraceful.”

“We cannot let this happen,” she told the crowd assembled on the steps of the Flushing Library, who chanted “Save our libraries” and “No budget cuts.”

Marshall said libraries are “the lifeblood of our borough” because they provide GED classes and give students resources to complete their schoolwork.

“We’ve got to keep our libraries open,” she said. “This is a source of knowledge. This is a source of information. This is a source of delight and happiness — a place where children really learn to love books.”

City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) said the city should find a way to pare down government waste and eliminate mismanagement before cutting library budgets.

“This year’s budget cuts will destroy our libraries as we know it,” he said. “We must find a way to keep our libraries open and in business to serve our children. Libraries are absolutely essential and considered vital by many, including me.”

Koo said 2 million people visited the Flushing Library last year.

The Queens Library is the busiest system in the country and among the busiest in the world.

Sherry Grant, a Flushing grandmother, said she goes to the Flushing branch to use the computers and her granddaughter uses the location’s tutoring services.

“To close it, where would we go?” she said. “They should find other places in the budget to cut.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 5:50 pm, October 10, 2011
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