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Queens Library has revamped itself: Interim president

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Following a management shakeup, the head of the Queens Library says the system has entered a new era of transparency and has new sources of funding.

Out of the library’s 19 board of trustee positions, 18 have been filled following the scandal involving former Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante, according to Bridget Quinn-Carey, the interim president and CEO. All but four appointments are new to the board. Five senior managers have resigned.

In September, Galante was placed on indefinite leave as he was being investigated by the FBI, federal prosecutors and the city Department of Investigation for alleged misuse of funds. An audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed expensive furniture and lavish meals, among other purchases, in his expense accounts.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio were also able to remove eight of the 19 trustee members, with the ninth resigning.

Since then, the library has developed new business-expense and conference-attendance policies and is revising its bylaws, Quinn-Carey said in an interview at the TimesLedger offices with reporters and editors earlier this month. Stringer’s audit is in its final stages and an independently contracted auditor is conducting an internal audit for the library. The external audit is available on the library’s website.

Quinn-Carey, who previously served as chief operating officer and has worked as a librarian for the past 25 years, said the combination of her experience, new trustee members and new elected officials has started a new era for the library.

“I found it a huge opportunity for me to say, ‘OK, this is the time for me to take a fresh look and see how things could be better,’” she said.

Quinn-Carey also said the library has re-established ties with the DC 37 and Local 1321 unions after it stopped contracting out custodial work.

The City Council and de Blasio reached an early agreement Monday night on a $78.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2016 that devotes $39 million to universal six-day library service, extended hours, and other improvements at the city’s three library systems.

Queens Library will receive $10.88 million above what it received in operating expenses in fiscal year 2014, which is $8 million above fiscal year 2015, according to Joanne King, the library’s communications director.

The money will be used to hire additional staff to expand hours of service and programs and to buy additional library materials for loan, King said.

About 85 percent of the library system’s funding comes from governmental sources, primarily at the city level and a little bit from the state and federal levels, while the other 15 percent comes from sources such as private donations, Quinn-Carey said.

The New York, Queens and Brooklyn libraries had asked the city for about $1.4 billion to cover capital needs, she added. Mayor de Blasio ended up pledging $300 million over 10 years, or $100 million for each system in the new budget deal.

Quinn-Carey, who visited the paper before the city budget accord was reached, said the $6.5 million in funds cut from the city libraries’ budget back in 2008 have had an adverse impact on the system’s ability to provide its basic services.

Out of the Queens Library’s 65 locations, only 20 have a six-day week with Saturday hours, Quinn-Carey said. That will change now with the new influx of funds.

In addition, the library’s efforts to provide educational services have been stretched thin, with about 1,000 people being turned down for free ESL classes due to an insufficient number of seats, she said.

Katz had allocated about $13 million in capital funding for the Queens Library this year, which includes $2.75 million for a new elevator at Flushing Library, and has committed funding for other borough projects.

“Thankfully, the borough president has come through with a number of commitments to the library system as far as capital goes in this coming fiscal year,” Quinn-Carey said.

Despite the funding challenges, the system boasts a new library scheduled to open in Elmhurst by 2016, the upcoming Hunters Point Library and the reopening and renovations of libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy such as Far Rockaway, Peninsula and Seaside.

Among other goals, Quinn-Carey said she hopes to use technology to break the digital divide. She also wants to place a focus on the borough’s diversity, noting that she tries to hire staff members who are multilingual.

“We’re such a diverse organization serving such a diverse population,” she said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Updated 2:37 pm, June 25, 2015
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