Streams

Queens Library Turns the Page on Buying New Books

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is one for the books.

The Queens Library, one of the city's public libraries experiencing the budget squeeze, is taking an unprecedented step in its 104-year history and has stopped buying books.

Queens Public Library CEO Tom Galante said he doesn't want to upset bookworms, but late last year, Mayor Bloomberg asked the library to cut $4.5 million from its spending. As Galante saw it, the library board faced a choice: trim hours and staff as it had been doing for the past two years, or do something that goes against the very idea of a lending library and stop buying books.

“It was a tough decision, but we wanted to make sure that we maintained our hours,” Galante said.

Galante said the mission of the library has shifted subtly, from lending books to providing English lessons, aiding job seekers and providing Internet access.

“It really comes down to libraries being about community -- being a place for seniors in the morning, kids afterschool,” Galante said.

And so, the doors will stay open. Galante is hopeful the library can resume book buying in July, after it gets a new budget from the city.

Livia Maoz, who reads several books a week, said she gets nearly almost all of her reading material from the Queens Public Library.

"That's bad. That's very bad," Maoz said, mulling over the news as she browsed a new book display with the latest titles from John Grisham, Dennis Lehane and Anne McCaffrey.

"And when there are no new books, actually, they are limiting my experience, so this is bad,” She added.

And the decision to halt book buying is causing some alarm.

“It breaks my heart," said Audra Caplan, President of the Public Library Association. "You don’t do that unless you’re really in trouble.”

Caplan said Queens has long been considered an innovator and a model for smaller libraries across the nation. Like many of them, it’s now in fiscal distress. And Queens is not alone.

The Brooklyn Public Library has reduced book buying and hours. The New York Public Library -- which includes the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan – is not hiring for empty positions. All three systems are seeing multimillion dollar budget cuts. But only Queens has stopped buying books entirely.

“I think part of that is the usage that we have,” Galante said. He believes Queens may be in a unique situation in part because of the popularity of the library's English-learners course and the breadth of its collections, which contain books in more than 100 languages.

Some borough political leaders think that is not the only issue. Councilman Leroy Comrie said Queens gets less money than it deserves from the city budget: “The city’s stuck on an old formula that they need to look at,” Comrie said.

Queens has consistently received less money per visitor than the other two library systems. From 2007-2010, the city spent on average $5.89 per patron in Queens, and $6.76 and $7.86 per patron in the Brooklyn and New York systems, respectively. A third more was spent per New York user than per user in Queens, on average.

Comrie said he’s working to fix the imbalance.

But Queens has other challenges. The library recently raised and spent a quarter of a billion dollars on capital projects – adding one new branch and renovating and expanding five other locations.

Galante said that’s a good thing, but it does create challenges: “We’ll have expanded our facilities by 30 percent without any additional operating support,” he said.

Recently, the library launched a “Buy a Book” campaign. The idea is to persuade users to pitch in $25 for their local library’s collection. In exchange, they’ll get an inscription of their choosing inside a new library book.

 

 

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Comments [21]

Melvin Goldstein from dallas tx

Numbers are the Supreme Court of science. However Godel proved that we may not prove everything. Science needs numbers. There must be Science and Physics Foibles!! I will be happy to mail you a free copy if you do not have.

Aug. 16 2013 01:17 PM
Melvin Goldstein from dallas tx

Numbers are the Supreme Court of science. However Godel proved that we may not prove everything. Physics needs numbers. There must be Physics Foibles!!

Jan. 26 2012 04:29 PM
jmpace from Manhattan

do they accept books you no longer want?
I have tons to give them and need info.
Will they pick up a donation, I can't carry all of them.

Jul. 05 2011 12:42 PM
Barbara from Sunnyside

So many books are thrown away after reading, books in good lending condition. Book shelves are filled with books that will never be read again and are gathering dust. Is there any reason why those books couldn't be contributed to, and accepted by, local libraries? It would benefit authors whose books aren't being bought by the general public, those people who are dependent on their local library for their reading needs, and libraries needing up-to-date books. Instead of packing books into huge garbage bags and leaving them on the sidewalk for garbage pickup, is there any reason why the local library couldn't hold a "book fair" and use those proceeds for buying new books? Times are tough and belts are being tightened, but when better days come back, so will the budgets and the books.

Feb. 08 2011 06:31 PM
lisa Wood from QLD Australia

I think that is so sad - a library that is not buying books? What happens when you prefer reading a certain type of novel or a certain author? And if the library does not have that book and you are looking for it? Will they buy it or will readers have to go to book stores?
Cheers
Lisa

Jan. 29 2011 02:10 AM
Melvin Goldstein

I have written a book “Physics Foibles”. Dr. McGuire of Tulane has used the book as a reference for some of his students. The book uses computer programs that may be helpful for some of your readers. I will happy to mail you a complimentary copy of the book. Please send me a mailing address.

Melvin Goldstein
mgoldst1@tx.rr.com
6952 Clearhaven Dr.
Dallas , Tx. 75248

Jan. 27 2011 09:54 PM

To QPL bloggers:

We had a small press from 1981 to 2001, and the QPL was always a good customer for our Scandinavian classics. After the backlist stopped selling we had to shred thousands of perfectly good books because we could no longer afford the storage. We still have copies of a few titles from those years, and now as translators we often receive more than enough sample copies of our new books from our publishers in the US and UK. We'd love to return the favor -- all of these (mostly fiction) would help fill your shelves.

Will you please publish the shipping address on this site so we can send you some?

Thanks,
Steven T. Murray / aka Reg Keeland
Fjord Press
Albuquerque NM

Jan. 27 2011 02:09 PM
Steven T. Murray from Albuquerque NM

To QPL bloggers:

We had a small press from 1981 to 2001, and after the backlist stopped selling we had to shred thousands of perfectly good books because we could no longer afford the storage. We still have copies of a few titles from those years, and now as translators we often receive more than enough sample copies of our new books from our publishers in the US and UK. All of these (mostly fiction) would help fill your shelves.

Will you please publish the shipping address on this site so we can send you some?

Thanks,
Fjord Press
Albuquerque NM

Jan. 27 2011 02:02 PM
Deanna from Glasgow, Scotland, UK (former resident & employee of QBPL!)

I think that if CS didn't know that his/her tax dollars were being spent on non-traditional library materials, then he/she hasn't been into a library for a VERY long time. I've been a member and staff member of libraries in Canada, the US and the UK and I have to say that the Queens Library was one of the best ones I've ever been to.

As for lindam... if you only saw a shelf of new English books, but shelves of non-English materials, did you ever stop to think that it reflected the population in Forest Hills? Or that the non-English materials might not be new? QBPL is KNOWN for having collections that reflect and serve the neighbourhoods in which their branches are located. Maybe you should mention that you wanted more new books to the librarians... they are usually open, and in fact desirous, of requests... it helps when selecting materials!

Jan. 26 2011 10:02 AM
yep

Just wanted to say if they have a friends group, support it. This may be the only way the library can find funding to purchase new materials to support a popular library during tough times. Check out their web site at: http://www.queenslibrary.org/index.aspx?page_nm=FriendsGroup

Jan. 26 2011 12:57 AM
Rachel from Brooklyn

To "CS from Queens"- To say the library should only get books instead of DVDs and CDs may know that people go to libraries for different reasons and may look to different formats to get information. There are many audio books available on CD which are great for people with disabilities who can't read printed text (visual impairments, dyslexia, etc.). Libraries often carry a broad range of DVDs (documentaries and more) that aren't available via Netflix and the video store. DVDs and CDs are important format that can meet a variety of needs.

Jan. 25 2011 09:45 PM

Most of the libraries aim for diverse collections -- that includes format (books, DVDs, CDs), language (English, Chinese, Russian, etc.) audience (kids, teens, adults, seniors) -- that reflect the needs and interests of the community.

The library's mission is to meet the cultural and recreational needs as well as the educational and informational needs of Queens residents.

Some people are overlooking that the library faced millions in cuts and made some very hard decisions. Just because Queens Library is not buying new stuff (books, CDs, DVDs) for the next six months doesn't mean the older stuff going away.

Use the opportunity to check out something different, maybe a classic you missed or an earlier Patterson that you've forgotten the plot. Is there favorite book from long ago that you've been meaning to read?

As always, donations welcome.

Jan. 25 2011 06:02 PM
jk from Hallots Cove

I'll be donating some books and i hope others do to.

Jan. 25 2011 05:27 PM
lindam from Queens

CS from Queens hit the nail on the head. The last time I went to my local branch in Forest Hills, Queens there was a paltry shelf of new English-language books, yet shelves-upon-shelves of Chinese- and Russian-language books, along with DVDs, music CDs and a room full of computers.

Jan. 25 2011 04:33 PM
CS from Queens, NY

Maybe it's time the library stopped buying CD's and DVD's in place of books! Then there might be some money for books to support the library's core mission! I didn't know that my tax dollars meant to support the free version of Netflix.

Jan. 25 2011 10:55 AM
john from queens

hello, yes..QPL will take book donations at any branch, thank you for your support.

Jan. 25 2011 12:44 AM
Jessica from Astoria, Queens NYC

Thank you for this article. Libraries are important. Will QPL accept book donations? I always have books in good condition that I like to give away.

Jan. 24 2011 05:09 PM
Joanne in Jamaica

WNYC listeners can help. Go to www.queenslibraryfoundation.org/buyabook

Jan. 24 2011 02:14 PM
Joanne in Jamaica

WNYC listeners can help. Go to www.queenslibraryfoundation.org/buyabook

Jan. 24 2011 02:12 PM
Susan from Queens from New York City

Free public libraries & public schools are the core of democracy. I'd rather the library stop buying books for 6 months than layoff any more librarians or close branches and cutback library hours. QBPL has the country's highest circulation rates -- Queens politicians need to to rectify the funding situation. The data proves Queens gets short-changed.

PS - Good idea for all of NY's libraries to stop discarding books when you run out of shelf space. Donate them to other nonprofits & charities.

Jan. 24 2011 01:37 PM
Danielle from Queens

Maybe it's time to start thinking about what we, the public, can do. The UK has some good examples, like the good people in Stony Stratford. http://is.gd/OtJckR

Also, when asked to cut arts funding for a war, Winston Churchill replied "Then what are we fighting for?"

Food for thought.

Jan. 24 2011 11:49 AM

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