Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO, Queens Library
New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries
March 20, 2015
Good morning. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Majority Leader Van Bramer, City Council Finance Chair Ferreras, Library Subcommittee Chair Constantinides, Queens Delegation Leader Weprin and the entire City Council for its continuing support of the mission and programs of Queens Library. Your dedication is greatly appreciated.
Our City’s public libraries serve the many and varied needs of a constantly growing number of people. They function as community centers and educational hubs, and provide a broad range of essential services that are free and available to all New Yorkers, including those most in need. They provide adult literacy programs, easy access to community health care and medical information, services for non-native speakers and new citizens, and academic opportunities for children of all ages. I am sure everyone in the City Council appreciates the value of libraries in every community and I know that you have been supportive of libraries, to the best of your ability, during the lean years.
We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this City — as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries, so that together we ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive.
For the past several years, you have heard us talk about how vital our library services have been to our communities during the recession. You have heard about how we have provided digital access for people who cannot afford it, the pivotal role our Job and Business Academy has played in helping people prepare to go back to work, how we have helped families survive by helping them apply for benefits, and, of course, serving as an access point for City services, such as disaster recovery information, IDNYC and more. Community wellness, adult basic education, digital literacy, academic support — we have struggled to provide it all during the bad times and many, many people in Queens were very appreciative that we were there.
But I want to tell you what has happened at Queens Library right now. In the first half of FY 15, visitorship is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7% in the past 6 months, and up 43% over the past five years. The demand for library programs and services continues to grow. The economy has improved, but we all know, it has not improved for everyone. If this Mayor and this Council truly believe in Equity, Growth, Resiliency, and Sustainability, there is never going to be a better time or a better investment than to invest in libraries.
We need funding for a minimum of six days of service in every library in every community. And we need funding that will enable us to have the services and materials people want and need on those days as well. Thanks to the leadership of Council Member Van Bramer, Council Member Ferreras and the entire Council, we received a modest increase in funding for FY 15 and we are thankful. You can see that we had immediate results. But we need to do better.
Working families need to have access to early childhood programs such as our new Family Place in Corona on the weekend. Adult learners need to be able to access adult basic education, high school equivalency preparation and English classes on the weekends. And everyone needs more access to public access computers and skills training classes.
Council Member Constantinides has publicly mentioned that in NYCHA housing, 40% of the residents do not have internet access. That is not an unusual situation. Public computers in the library are in constant use every day. Those computers bring the necessity of quick and efficient internet access to more Queens residents than any other institution. And so does our technology lending program, which includes Google tablets and mobile broadband hot spots that you can take home. But you can’t use the computers, borrow a tablet or take a digital literacy workshop when the library is closed. Forty-three community libraries and centers in Queens are closed all weekend long. If we were open six a days a week, we would be able to provide computer access to hundreds of thousands more people in Queens. Think about how that would help to change the game not only in NYCHA houses but for all Queens residents.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso funded the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative, because they, along with all of you, understand how important it is to the future of our city to help parents raise strong and proficient readers. Queens Library is a national leader in the delivery of innovative services for early learners. We are the first public library in the country to operate a library-based, Universal Pre-K program. We established the first Family Place in New York City, a research-based learning environment for young children and their caretakers. But if working parents cannot come to the library with their children, if they cannot use the library and its books as bonding time, where they can make reading skills a part of their family life, the Council is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We need funding so our libraries can remain open during more hours, when families have access to the programs and resources. Chair Jimmy Van Bramer has often spoken about how he used the library as a child. He still comes to the library with his mother — we were happy to welcome her to an event at the Broadway Community Library recently. We need to make family library time accessible to this generation of children. We need funding to keep our libraries open six days a week and for the programs and services that are essential to offer when the library is open.
Queens has the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in New York City, in the most ethnically and linguistically diverse county in the country, the Worlds Borough. Queens Library welcomes recent immigrants and those born here to celebrate their cultural heritage, adapt to life in the United States, learn English, and advance in their pursuit of the American dream. Sadly, last year, we had to turn away more than a thousand ESOL students because we simply did not have another chair to put them in. People come to us with a desire to learn, with a will to take the next step to improve their futures, but we have to turn them away. It’s time to open our doors, expand our classes and make sure that the thousands of people that need help can get it at our libraries.
I would like to tell you about Khadijah Rasheed. She wanted to be with us today, but I am pleased to say that she couldn’t make it because she is working. She lives in Arverne, on the Rockaway peninsula. Khadijah was a very hardworking college student who happened to be in the library when the first Google tablets rolled in for loan. She was able to borrow one. Having the tablet allowed Khadijah to make better use of her long commute to and from classes. She used it to complete her degree at the College of New Rochelle with excellent grades. In addition to her job, she is in a graduate school program. Following Super Storm Sandy, private grant funds kept the library at Arverne open seven days a week, but that is over now. The library at Arverne is not open on weekends. Khadijah and her family need and deserve the educational opportunities that their library can provide. She needs and deserves this chance to grow, personally and economically. She could never have succeeded without the support of her public library. But now, it is only open Monday to Friday. Khadijah’s daughter and her neighbors need this Council to invest in New Yorkers by investing in libraries.
This year, thanks to the restoration of some funds, Queens Library was able to hire more staff to serve the public with their informational and educational needs, and to purchase more library materials for them to borrow. Unfortunately, that restoration was for one year only and our FY 16 budget is starting out $2.8 million less than this year. Along with my colleagues at New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries, we are asking for $65 million to deliver more computer sessions, more adult education, more support for young students, more ESOL seats, and to hire more qualified staff.
At the same time, the need for capital funds for our library facilities must be addressed. We recently announced the approval to begin construction of the long-awaited new library at Hunters Point. We recently celebrated the opening of the new Teen Center at Cambria Heights, a new roof at Lefferts and Hollis, a renovated children’s library space at Broadway. Dozens of projects are underway across the borough to improve and enhance library spaces. But, here too, the needs outweigh our budget.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. We have submitted a request for $418 million in projects over the next ten years that will be required to get our system up to a state of good repair, replace 6 and expand 5 libraries to relieve overcrowding and renovate 20 libraries to create suitable library spaces for the 21st century. The Ten-Year plan has not yet been funded and we look to your support for this effort.
Queens Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library are asking for a $65 million baseline increase in City operating funding for libraries. And we are asking for a rational, sustainable Capital plan so we can keep our physical spaces worthy of our mission. I hope I can count on all of you to make that happen. Please: invest in libraries and invest in New Yorkers.
Thank you. I look forward to answering any questions.
Statement by Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO Queens Library
New York City Council Finance Committee Jointly with Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and Subcommittee on Libraries
February 24, 2015
Good afternoon. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Finance Chair Ferreras, Majority Leader Van Bramer, Library Subcommittee Chair Constantinides, Queens Delegation Leader Weprin and the entire City Council for its consistent support of the mission and programs of the Queens Library. Your ongoing support is critical and appreciated.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about the capital needs of the Queens Library and the Ten-Year Capital plan that was submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget.
My colleagues and I come before you representing the great equalizer—our City’s libraries. Together, we open our doors to provide the broadest range of services to the broadest range of New Yorkers. Whether it’s teaching English to our new immigrant population, providing after-school services every day or providing job assistance to under- and unemployed New Yorkers, there is a free program in the public library. And we have had the most significant impact in helping to close the great digital divide by opening the wonders of the internet to more New Yorkers than any other institution.
Right now, our libraries are not able to give New Yorkers the full benefit of what we have to offer. The lack of reliable capital budget support has limited our ability to provide the level of services we know is needed and could deliver if our basic capital needs were met in a way that allows us to plan effectively. We all know that emergency repairs cost more than planned repairs; we are able to give taxpayers the best value for their investment when we have the resources to make needed capital upgrades strategically.
The average branch library is 61 years old, with a quarter of the branches built over a century ago. They are heavily used. Collectively, more than 35 million people visited their public library last year, creating a great deal of wear and tear. The vast majority of libraries are poorly configured to meet the demands of the digital age—with too few electrical outlets, too little space for classes, group work, or space for individuals working on laptop computers.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. In Queens alone, that figure exceeds $400 million.
Currently, our piecemeal year-to-year funding requests must compete for local support against a broad range of unique needs within each Council District and Borough. This approach does not allow us to effectively plan restoration projects, to replace aging systems on a routine basis and to assure continued public service. The members of the City Council have appropriately noted that they do not have the allocations available to fund high-cost projects including total building renovations, expansions or new facilities. Those projects should be within the purview of a comprehensive capital strategic plan.
We are encouraged that Mayor de Blasio is taking libraries’ capital needs seriously and included libraries in the City’s Ten-Year Capital Budget Strategy planning process. We submitted a comprehensive plan to address the critical needs of our facilities. Our plan, if funded, will bring our libraries into a state of good repair, create the necessary spaces to provide full-service library programs, and support the goals of equality, sustainability, resiliency and growth. Mayor de Blasio’s preliminary plan does not, however, include any new funding for projects included in our Ten-Year plan, leaving us literally and figuratively in an unsustainable position.
Library buildings in Queens are about providing the programs, services and spaces that people need to enrich their lives. How they look and perform makes a world of difference.
You will be hearing from the Friends of the Cambria Heights Library. This past year, thanks to the support of this Council, we opened a dedicated 4,000 square foot Teen Space with a tech lab, homework area, a recording booth and a gaming lounge. More than 100 young adults use it daily for school work and for a safe place to gather and relax. We can’t think of a better place for teens to congregate than the library, but it would not be possible without the capital investment in the space, and in them.
You will also be hearing about an expansion to our Adult Learning Center in Rochdale Village. Adult education services in Queens are in tremendous demand, but we simply did not have the capacity to serve one more person. There is an overwhelming need for our ESL services. Sadly, last year, we had to turn away more than 1,000 potential students because we did not have one more chair to put someone in.
There is a simple, cost-effective, expedient solution. We need your support to fund our capital needs so we can build and adequately maintain libraries that house these, and so many more, important community services.
Key projects already underway include a brand new Elmhurst library, expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, the full renovation of the Central Library, the expansion of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center, and new library buildings in Hunters Point and Far Rockaway, which is now in design. Upcoming projects include the full renovation at Glendale, the expansion and renovation of the East Elmhurst library and interior renovations of the Richmond Hill and Woodhaven libraries.
Despite our progress, many unmet capital- improvement and maintenance needs remain across the borough. These include both critical infrastructure such as roof replacements, elevator and ADA upgrades, as well as expansions, renovations and new facilities which many communities have long sought. What does it say to a community when they walk into a library building and see buckets on the floor catching rainwater? It means nobody cares about them. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We care, and I know this Council cares as well.
As you know, many of the city’s libraries are simply too small. In Queens, 41 of our 65 service locations are less than 10,000 square feet. It is impossible to squeeze full-service library programming, classes and collections into these spaces.
Demands on and for library space will continue to grow. The City projects that the population of Queens will increase by more than 300,000 people by the year 2030. We know that we can best serve our teen population – one of the populations in which libraries are able to make the most impact – when we give teens their own space. Areas in Queens that have traditionally been industrial space are now becoming newly residential, and there is no library nearby. We need to serve those new communities.
Over a ten-year period from 2016 to 2025, Queens Library seeks to enhance and enrich its library infrastructure by making capital improvements to 60 of our library locations, allocating over $418 million over the course of the plan. This will require approximately $41 million in capital funding per year.
It will allow us to fortify our existing buildings and build new ones with modern enhancements, incorporate energy-efficient materials and green architecture to reduce operating costs and preserve our environment.
The plan includes two brand-new libraries in emerging communities; six replacement buildings; four building expansions; indoor and outdoor renovations; new heating and cooling systems, and other environmentally-friendly innovations; and expanding technology services for our customers. An average of $24 million a year will be spent on the development of building expansions, replacements and new facilities, and $17 million a year will be spent on necessary reconstruction and ensuring a state of good repair and $25 million over ten years for technology.
But it is much less about windows and air conditioners, and more about the people who will use those buildings. Millions and millions of New Yorkers will come to the library for lifelong education and cultural enrichment in an attractive and safe environment of which we can all be proud. Each capital improvement reflects the Mayor’s policy priorities of Equity, Growth, Resiliency, and Sustainability and the values that have been repeatedly and eloquently expressed by the members of the City Council.
Our accomplishments have been many, but so too are our needs. Today, the three library systems have the opportunity to join with the Mayor and the City Council to create a new model that addresses this legacy of unmet needs and ensures a capital program that will be sustainable. We can only do so if the plan is funded. And that is our plea to the administration and to the City Council.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I look forward to our continued work together.
Statement by Bridget-Quinn Carey
Queens Borough President Borough Board Budget Hearing
February 23, 2015
Good morning. I am Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President and CEO of the Queens Library. I want to thank the members of Queens Borough Board for your leadership in supporting the mission and programs of Queens Library.
We are the World’s Library in the World’s Borough. That’s why our dedicated Board of Trustees and staff are committed to making Queens Library the most impactful and well used library in the world.
Today, Queens Library already provides the broadest range of services to the broadest range of New Yorkers. Whether it’s teaching English to our new New Yorkers, serving as the busiest location for Municipal ID registration, providing after-school programs or job assistance to the under- and unemployed, there is a free program at Queens Library. And we have had the biggest impact in helping to close the great digital divide by opening the wonders of the internet to more Queens residents than any other institution, and now in an even greater capacity through our new and innovative mobile broadband lending program).
For early-learners, Queens Library is a national leader in the delivery of innovative services. We are the first public library in the country to operate a library based public school pre-k program. We established the first Family Place in New York City-a researched based learning environment for young children and their caretakers.
For school-aged children, our structured after school program provides homework help and experiential learning projects that bolster academic performance. Our popular Teen Libraries offer age-appropriate programming including SAT test prep, youth employment opportunities and skill training, such as Girls Who Code programs.
This year, our Young Adult Literacy Programs will provide academic preparation, intensive case management, internships, and job shadowing.
For adult learners, Queens Library runs the largest library-run literacy program in the nation, serving more than 4,000 different adult learners at 30 community libraries and seven adult learning centers.
With the largest percentage of foreign born residents in New York City, in the most ethnically and linguistically diverse county in the country, Queens Library is truly a Global Commons: 65 welcoming locations where recent immigrants and those born here celebrate their cultural heritage and adapt to life in the United States - in addition to learning English, advancing their educations and careers.
At the same time, we offer popular multi-lingual programs on immigration law, becoming a citizen, starting a business, parenting, health education and computer classes and we have books and multimedia materials in languages from across the globe.
Our Job and Business Academy provides integrated services and support designed to enhance employment opportunities. Our jobs assessment and follow up interviews, structured workshops, and technology training sessions will help more than 50,000 customers this year.
Our older adults’ services to the homebound continued to expand through Mail-A-Book, teleconferencing and SKYPE sessions. This is a valuable service that often provides the only contact with the outside world these customers have.
Queens Library is the borough’s technology hub. For too many Queens residents the digital divide presents barriers to education, job opportunities and tasks of daily living. Approximately 30% of the borough does not have broadband or a computer at home. In certain communities, that number is much higher. You can well imagine how a child’s education will suffer without learning critical technology skills or an adult can become disconnected without access to information and services available only online. But you can enter any library and you will see our computers in constant use. You can even walk up to the check-out desk and borrow a tablet and a mobile broadband device to take home with you. Demand for e-books and e-magazines continue to sky rocket. But no matter how valuable our programs and services are, you simply cannot take advantage of them when the library is closed. We need more hours of service -- especially weekend hours in every library.
We are proud of our work and we know there is so much more that is needed. Last year, we turned away more than a thousand students who sought to register for ESOL classes. Demand to borrow tablets and mobile hot spots far outweigh current supplies. Funding is not keeping pace with the demand for quality curriculum-based after school programs and library doors are closed for too many hours when our customers need our services. This need is echoed across the City.
Queens Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library have joined together to advocate for a $65 million permanent increase in City funding for libraries. This funding will provide an additional $18.135 million for Queens Library, enabling us to bridge the divide between need and our ability to deliver critical services for our customers. Our doors would be open six days a week, ESOL classes would be available to more than 2,000 additional non-English speakers, program attendance could increase by 100,000, increased Early Childhood Literacy support would build a strong academic foundation for 300,000 attendees and their parents, computer sessions and internet access would help to further bridge the digital divide and homebound seniors would have additional resources available to keep their minds active and help to break the barriers of isolated living.
But, we cannot offer these services without an adequately funded baseline budget. As we pursue this funding, the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget for FY16 does not include the increased funding provided last year, putting us further behind in our efforts to serve the growing and diverse needs of Queens residents and making a broad-based advocacy effort even more crucial than ever.
At the same time, the need for capital funds for our library facilities must be addressed. We recently announced the approval to begin construction of the long awaited new library at Hunters Point. We recently celebrated the opening of the new Teen Center at Cambria Heights, a new roof at Lefferts and Hollis, a renovated children’s library space at Broadway. Dozens of projects are underway across the borough to improve and enhance library spaces. But, here too, needs outweigh our budget.
The Center for an Urban Future’s “Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries” report has detailed the stifling effects of long-term disinvestment in capital funding for branch libraries. In the five boroughs, we have more than $1.1 billion in unmet basic capital needs. I am encouraged that Mayor de Blasio has included libraries into the planning process of a ten-year capital plan. We have submitted a program of $418 million in projects over the next ten years that will be required to get our system up to a state of good repair, replace 6 and expand 5 libraries to relieve overcrowding and renovate 20 libraries to create suitable library spaces for the 21st century. The ten-year plan has not yet been funded and we look to your support for this effort.
Queens Library continues to deliver the services Queens residents want but not all that they need. We need your support for our expense and capital programs because, Borough President Katz, if it’s good for Queens Library-it’s good for families and good for Queens. Thank you.