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Queens Library In Need of Reform

March 10, 2014
By John Hyslop, Local 1321 DC 37 President – Queens Library Guild

New York, NY – In Queens Library Trustee Joseph Ficalora’s op-ed in the Queens Courier of February 24, 2014 describing the Queens Library President/CEO Thomas Galante’s great work, he neglected to describe significant actions taken by some of the Queens Library Trustees and Thomas Galante that have adversely affected the Queens Library and its staff. These actions have lead the Borough President and the NYC Public Advocate to call for the most significant reforms to theLibrary’s governance in over half a century.

New York City’s taxpayers understand the dedication, time and commitment the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees make to Queens Library and our community. We have entrusted them to be stewards of the Library, ensuring our tax dollars are spent wisely to bring excellent services to millions of library customers. We have given them a great responsibility. After the recent revelations documented by the New York Daily News, Queens Library Guild, Local 1321 members question the Board of Trustees’ ability to guide our Library and make informed decisions.

The members of Local 1321 , most of whom serve the public directly – librarians, clerks, custodians, computer technicians, maintainers, drivers and adult learner teachers – have had serious concerns about the Trustees and the Administration’s decision-making for years.

This Board approved:

● issuing layoff notifications two years in a row, eventually laying off 44 frontline staff;
● imposing a six-year “hiring freeze” for frontline staff;
● imposing severe short staffing at libraries and Adult Learning Centers;
● contracting out of custodial work;
● removal of security guards in the branches and decrease of guards at Central and Flushing;
● slashing materials budgets;
● authorizing raises for the President/CEO and his Executive staff;
● a radical contract for the President/CEO;
● unnecessary and excessive renovations to the President/CEO’s office space, such as an outside smoking deck and executive conference rooms;
● creation of new administrative positions with salaries over $100,000;
● permitting the Queens Library’s President/CEO to work as Elmont School District’s Business Consultant;
● hiring an Elmont School District employee for Library construction projects, creating a possible conflict of interest.

Local 1321 members, Library customers and services are continually compromised by the Trustees and President/CEO’s actions. This is of grave concern for Local 1321 members because the Queens Library is now losing the trust and support of private and public funders.

We are encouraged by the proposals put forth by Queens Borough of President Melinda Katz and NYC Public Advocate Letitia James.

● Establishment of an Audit Committee
● Abolition of the Administrative Committee
● Mandatory annual financial disclosure statements of the Executive Director and other key Library employees whose compensation is funded by City or State tax dollars
● Adoption of policy that eliminates or monitors outside employment of key Library staff
● Policy requiring Board approval for hiring and compensating key Library managerial employees
● The monitoring of contracting out services
● A revision of the Library’s Conflict of Interest Policy
● Having labor representatives on the Board of Trustees
● Allowing ex-officio Board of Trustees the right to vote

Local 1321 members will work diligently with our elected officials and any Library Trustee to enact these proposals. These first steps will add transparency and accountability to the Library’s operations, regaining the trust of the Library’s employees, customers and funders.

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