March 16, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Queens Public Library (QPL) announced last night that it is shutting down all its local branches–effective immediately–until further notice, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision came after the New York Public Library — which includes libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx — announced Friday it was shutting its branches.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Cultural Affairs & Libraries Committee, urged the QPL, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library, last week to shut down in tandem with the New York Public Library system.
“Library workers, who are information specialists, always want to serve our customers, particularly those most vulnerable in a crisis,” Van Bramer said. “But for the safety of all, closing all three systems at this time is the prudent thing to do.”
Urban Libraries Unite, a library advocacy group, echoed Van Bramer’s call Friday.
“We understand the vital role public libraries play in our communities better than anyone, however we also know that the patrons who are most likely to be harmed by the closure of public libraries are the same patrons who are most likely to be harmed by the spread of the virus,” Urban Libraries Unite said in a statement.
“For their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of staff and other community members, we urge the BPL and QPL leadership to make the same decision immediately.”
Finally, both QPL and BPL announced full closures last night beginning today.
“Starting Monday, March 16 and until further notice, Queens Public Library will be closed to the public in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our staff and the public we serve,” Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of QPL, said in a statement.
In the interim, QPL is expanding its collection of digital materials, which includes thousands of free e-books, audiobooks, e-magazines, songs, movies and videos.
QPL also asked that Queens residents who currently have items checked out from library, hold onto the items until the branches reopen. All due dates will automatically be extended and late fees will be suspended during the closure.