The Queens Public Library is more important than ever on its 125th anniversary

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TheeErin | Flickr

Dani Heba

The Queens Public Library was founded 125 years ago on March 19, and 125 years since then, the library is still just as important, if not more.

“As we mark the 125th anniversary of Queens Public Library, we honor the people we serve in the most diverse place in the country, and uphold our commitment to inclusion, equity, and free access to information and opportunity for all,” CEO and President of the Queens Public Library Dennis Walcott said. “We celebrate the library’s rich past and promising future in building resilience and unity in our communities, and as a force for truth and democracy.”

Dr. Walter Frey and George Clay were granted a charter for the Long Island City Public Library from the New York State Board of Regents in 1896. There are now 66 locations across Queens.

Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many of the in-person services that the library once offered. This has led some to argue that the library should be fully digital to save the government some money. However, people holding this belief underestimate the importance of being at a library in person.

The in-person refuge that a library provides cannot be understated. Students who live in troubled homes and want to spend as little time as possible in them often use the library as a safe haven.

Many students leave school earlier than their parents get out of work. Often, struggling parents won’t have the money to pay for a nanny and after-school opportunities can be limited.

The library provides students in situations like these with a safe haven to gather in after school. Without physical libraries, what would happen to the 11,400,000 people the library served, including the children in unfortunate situations?

In a growingly digital world, having a computer and an internet connection is necessary.

Homework assignments are uploaded online for students. People of all ages can find any resource or reference to the outside world on the internet and with it being so integral in peoples’ lives in current times, it can be hard to keep up without a connection.

The Queens Public Library steps in to help with that problem once again. In 2018, the library provided more than 3 million computer sessions and nearly 500,000 wireless internet connections, according to data from the library system.

Above all, the founding of the library was meant to democratize reading.

Benjamin Franklin noticed a problem 300 years ago — people were uneducated and illiterate because only the wealthy could afford to purchase books and learn to read. As a result, Franklin founded the Library Company, America’s first public library system, in 1731, intending to democratize reading.

Libraries today democratize reading and offer countless programs to encourage it and boost childhood literacy.

A study of Pennsylvania public libraries found that children who attended libraries over the summer performed closer to their grade level for reading than camp children, who performed significantly lower than their grade levels.

The Queens Public Library offers summer programs to all children, which educators have generally attributed to a greater literacy level. In 2018, the offerings were so great that the library system hosted 80,000 classes, workshops, cultural events and activities.

The library system is essential now, more than ever, in catching students up to where they need to be. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused students across the country to fall behind in their education and the library will be a valuable resource to getting kids up to the reading levels where they should be.

“These Libraries have improved the general Conversation of Americans, made the common Tradesmen and Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other Countries, and perhaps have contributed in some Degree to the Stand so generally made throughout the Colonies in Defense of their Privileges,” Franklin said.