By Celia Bernhardt | firstname.lastname@example.org
This past Sunday, doors were locked at Central and Flushing Queens Public Libraries. And they’ll stay that way every Sunday for the foreseeable future.
It’s the first week of a new schedule for the library system, which is cutting Sunday service entirely at these two locations. The change follows citywide budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2024 announced in Mayor Adams’ November Financial Plan, which adds updates to the FY24 budget passed by City Council over the summer. Along with all other city agencies under the new budget, The Queens Library, Brooklyn Library and New York Public Library saw their funding slashed by 5%. Officials warn that the cuts could get deeper in January.
“Due to this significant loss of funding, the Library has made the extremely difficult decision to close our Central and Flushing libraries on Sundays, decrease spending on our digital and print materials, and delay needed maintenance and repairs in our buildings,” Queens Library wrote in a press release. “We know how much you rely on us and how disappointing this news is, and we remain as committed as ever to providing the best service possible despite the challenges we face.”
Kimberly Silva, a 47-year-old Hollis resident, said she enjoys visiting Central.
“Out of all the libraries, honestly, I would prefer to go to this one. Even though it’s a little bit far from where I live,” Silva said. “They have everything you want.”
“That’s horrible,” she said upon hearing about the new schedule. “No, I would prefer them to stay open. Because a lot of people can’t make it during the week. Sunday’s their off day, they want to come to the library.”
Out of 66 Queens Library locations, Central and Flushing were part of just four locations offering Sunday service before the budget cuts. Now, only Kew Gardens Hills and the Hunters Point Mobile Library remain.
Silva said that free internet and technology help at Central Library—which is equipped with a large room of desktop computers—will be particularly inconvenient for locals to lose access to on Sundays.
“I know a lot of people probably don’t have computers or access to the internet and they probably come here on their day off, which is Sunday,” she said. “A lot of people, you know, they’re struggling. Sometimes the internet access is too hard, sometimes it shuts down.”
She’s worried the change in schedule might be difficult for her neighbor. “She has adopted kids and they don’t have internet, and she normally brings them here Sunday to do their homework.”
City Council Member Sandra Ung, whose district includes Flushing Library, emphasized the importance of the location. “One of my top priorities upon taking office was reopening the Flushing branch of Queens Public Library, which had been closed since the start of the pandemic, because I know what an important resource this is for our largely immigrant community,” the Council Member said in a statement. “It’s where children improve their reading skills, parents learn English, and residents develop new skills they can use to advance their careers or transition to a new one.”
Ung said in the statement that the Adams administration made “difficult decisions to address a grim budget outlook,” but that she remains committed to looking for ways to bolster the library system’s resources.