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Queens Library Is Still Awesome!

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Big news, Queens Library is STILL awesome! Yep, that is right, Queens Library remains one of the preeminent libraries in the country, if not the world. It continues to get awards for everything from architecture to frontline local management. Queens 62 libraries are out there in almost every neighborhood in the borough making a constant, quiet contribution to the community.

Queens does direct and immediate outreach to teens. They have social workers on staff at some locations to help connect users to critical services. They are a training center for the new high school equivalency diploma, a massive undertaking which will require a huge level of access to bandwidth and test preparation, which Queens will step up to -- as it does, like, seriously all the time. It has partnered with Google to put 5,000 tablets into the hands of users who got slammed by Sandy as a way to expand collection impact and digital literacy. Yeah, that is right folks, they leveraged a massive hardware donation immediately after the storm, and now lend out tablets in the Rockways on a free library card.

On the topic of Sandy, when it hit, Queens Library mobilized hard, really hard, to provide immediate information services to the community. Libraries were turned into relief distribution points. The book bus rolled out as soon as the bridges opened, and the library was one of the first public services up and running on the Rockaways Peninsula after the storm. The local librarians busted ass to provide service to the community, and the administration busted ass to get trailers and infrastructure in place when libraries on the ground had been wiped out by four feet of water. I am really proud of what Queens library did after the storm.

Full disclosure, I work at Queens Library. It is the day job that allows me to do my work with Urban Librarians Unite. They have always been supportive of both the work of the organization and in my development as a non-profit leader. In further full disclosure, I am writing this on my own time and I am solely and wholly responsible for any and all opinions shared here. So weird you have to say that as a librarian these days, but anyway, this is all me.

Staff at Queens Library are constantly innovating; it is an essential part of the culture of the organization. People have created new cataloging standards, taught kids to play guitar and done incredible work with families newly arrived to New York City from overseas. The excellence of Queens Library and the creativity of its people are well known at local, state, national and even international levels.

I have been incredibly fortunate to work with brilliant and hardworking colleagues at every level ranging from pages right to the very top of the organization. I have great coworkers who I count as Union brothers and sisters and great coworkers who are outside the union both administrators and part time staff. Working together we create great value for our community.

More importantly the organization makes a constant local impact. Queens Library is the biggest employer of teens in the borough. It does more ESOL instruction than any other entity in Queens. There are job information centers and family literacy programs. They have award winning services for the homebound and computer classes from how to power it up to beginning coding including special classes for kids and seniors. Think about it like this: If you are reading this between the hours of 11 and 7 Monday to Friday, then someone is getting help at a Queens Library the moment you read this sentence. More than likely, it's a dozen people.

The fact of the matter is that library budgets and finance are complicated and difficult to explain in pithy, pulpy, punny headlines, but they are where the real story is. Yes library funding has been stabilized and will not be subject to the "budget dance" this year, and we are very, very grateful for that. Unfortunately that baseline number is down $16 million in six years which is still pretty tough. The book budget has been getting hammered and we are short more than 250 employees. These are the real crises that face libraries in N.Y.C.: the need for more staff in good quality facilities. They are not sexy, but I hope that my fellow library supporters will take up these real and very difficult problems in the months ahead.

Wrapping up, Queens Library does, indeed, remain awesome. The doors are wide open. The collection is really great, it is super broad with fantastic foreign language resources. The library is doing amazing stuff with e-readers. You can get an hour on a computer and print out twenty pages a day for free. If kids have overdue book fines they can read them off, no kidding, reading pretty much whatever they want or even just doing homework in the library. The staff are some of the best minds in in the world, and they are also super friendly and helpful. Let's not lose perspective here folks. Let's stay focused on growing an incredible public institution.