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Walcott speaks on effects of Queens libraries

Dennis Walcott, the president and CEO of the Queens Library, spoke about the benefits of the Queens libraries on the community last Friday from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. at the Student Union dining hall.

Sponsors of Queens College, including the Queens Chamber of commerce, the president of Queens College, students and the chair of the Library Committee Board, all came together for breakfast to listen to a speech by Walcott outlining programs and opportunities the Queens libraries offer students and immigrants, along with plans for opening new libraries in Queens.

Currently there are 64 libraries in Queens, employing a total of 17,000 people, making libraries from Queens residents only a mile and half from their homes Walcott estimated during the event.

There will be a library in Elmhurst opening at the end of December, a 35 million dollar project. In three months, the Kew Gardens library will be reopening, and there are plans for new libraries in Far Rockaway in the next few years and Hunters Point in the fall.

The Queens Library has many programs available to everyone from entrepreneurs to students. “The English to Speakers of Other Languages” (ESOL) program helps immigrants improve their English skills and the “Ready 4 Business” program teaches immigrants the skills they need to start their own businesses. Other programs offer assistance with writing resumes and preparing for job interviews.

“STACKS” is a free after school program offered by the Queens Library for children from ages 6 to 14. Students from different universities help children with homework and offer hands-on educational activities.

The Jamaica Food Entrepreneurship and Services Training Space, otherwise known as “FEASTS,” is a free program that helps provide training to people opening up their own restaurants with workshops. Training takes place in the Queens Library Café.

Another program offered at the Queens Library is the Queens Memory Project, a collection of personal records such as photographs that documents contemporary life in Queens in an effort to preserve it. The Queens Library provides the infrastructure for taking in the artifacts.

“Queens Library really grows and expands services,” said Tara Lannen, Director of Adult Learning at the Queens Library. “Our libraries are all community based and our services are based on what we hear customers need or want.”

Four of the Queens libraries also have a program they refer to as a “Tiebrary,” in which anyone can borrow a tie for a job interview using their library card. The ties can be kept for 21 days.

“I like that Walcott is utilizing new libraries for educational purposes and employment,” said Sarah Feldman, chair of the library committee for a community board.

Amanda Ramharain, a sophomore majoring in biology, thought Walcott was “very open and (he) gives people opportunities while offering a helping hand to everyone.” She also explained that as a business major, she wanted to take advantage of the business programs offered at the Queens Library.

“I would take a business class because I am so new to the business world and I would like to learn more,” Ramharain said. “I want to get as much information as I can from the programs.”

Walcott is the former deputy mayor of education and community development as well as a former school teacher and chancellor of the Department of Education. He discussed his long history of public service and said that “it is the focus of (his) life.”

“I have a dream, and my dream is to service the people,” Walcott said. “We are here to make a difference; even if it’s just about getting a book to read to leave the harsh reality of the world. As a library, we are about sharing information. We’re not just about books. We are about services, programs and serving the dreams of the people.”

In his speech, Walcott also mentioned he wanted to achieve the goal of a 24 hour library so people can use the resources the library offers at any time of the day.

“I think the idea of a 24 hour library is very important,” said Amy Mugavero, executive director of the Queens Library. “The library is very welcoming to everybody.”

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