The Bookworms of Queens

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Prior to moving to Brooklyn, my wife and I lived in the Borough of Queens, NY. We loved it. You can’t beat the restaurants if you are looking for authentic “ethnic” cuisine. The Indian food in Jackson Heights is seriously superior to just about anything in Manhattan and we don’t even need to say anything about the Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, and other Latin American food. Flushing is the real-deal Chinatown of NYC and where else are you going to find authentic Israeli-style falafel or Bukharian Jewish cuisine? Queens homeboy, Queens…

Queens has a reputation as being a bit, well, dense. Or maybe it’s closed minded. Whatever people are saying about Queens residents being lump-heads is far off the mark. What evidence do I have to support my claim? An article in The New York Sun points out that residents of Queens are the greatest library patrons in the United States. That’s right, the greatest. So Queens is not only the most diverse county in the U.S., it’s also among the most well-read.

Eat your heart out Manhattan!

Queens Has No. 1-Ranked American Library System

By SARAH PORTLOCK

The Queens Library is the no. 1 library system in the country, with 20.2 million items in circulation in fiscal year 2006, according to a report released by the Public Library Association yesterday. The library saw an increase to 21 million circulated items in fiscal year 2007, which ended on June 30.

The library’s director, Thomas Galante, credited the importance the library places on programming, staff training, and having a strong community presence in Queens’ diverse neighborhoods for the high circulation rate.

“We have people who are hungry for information,” Mr. Galante said. “Our business is to be a community-based organization, so we do a lot of work to focus on that.”

The library sees 55,000 visitors daily across its 63 branches and provides 6.6 million items for loan to its 2.2 million residents. Popular titles are offered in 30 languages. It also offers nearly 22,000 programs on topics ranging from traditional storytelling and literacy classes to programs about public health, yoga, and cultural arts.

A Queens Village resident who was using the computer terminals at the central branch in Jamaica yesterday, Anthony Connor, 18, said he tries to come to the library daily to read, study, or attend an art or Japanese animé class.

“I come out here for the books on computers,” Mr. Connor, who said he hopes to become a computer engineer, said.

The library also caters to the borough’s diverse immigrant population, Mr. Galante said, with specific programs geared toward English literacy and living in America. Queens residents “are the kind of people that have decided to pursue the American dream,” he said. “We do a lot of work to help them acclimate.”

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I heard Paul Avrich give a brilliant presentation on the Modern School Movement at the Queens Public Library in Jamaica a few years before he passed away. Nunzio Pernicone, another excellent speaker, presented on the Italian anarchist movement and Sid Solomon, anarchist activist from the 1930s, spoke about the Spanish Civil War. It was a great event.

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