Many people may take the library for granted, but for some, it is a vital part of their community.
Take, for example, Fatima Kaba, a West African immigrant, who came to this country 12 years ago in a pursuit of an education. The Baruch student calls the Woodhaven branch of the Queens Library system an extension of her room.
Kaba says that her room is too small to do anything productive, so she goes to the library to use its computers and to do her homework.
“I walk 15 blocks to go to that library,” Kaba said. “If I didn’t have this library, I have to go to the city.”
Like Kaba, many students in the neighborhood use its computers.
Marcus Santos of Woodhaven said that he uses the computers because there is only one in his home, which he has to share with his two older siblings.
“Many students come here to do their homework,” Santos said. “It’s free, and it’s great.”
The Woodhaven Library provides books in several languages, catering to the needs of the diverse ethnic groups within its community, such as Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Russian, Polish and French.
Associate director for communications at Queens Library, Joanne King, said that the library serves a community of 37,500 residents as well as others that come from all over the state.
“The majority of the users of the library are Chinese, even though they are only about 10 to 15 percent of the Woodhaven community,” Woodhaven Library manager Rebecca Alibatya said. “In order to keep up with the demand for Chinese language content, I have to allocate more of the budget to Chinese books and videos.”
The library embraces every culture within their community, Alibatya said. They have special programs throughout the year to spread cultural awareness, such as performances by Spanish singers and making Chinese crafts.
Christine Barbour of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association runs a poetry workshop at the library, which many resident said they take part in.
“I enjoy attending the poetry workshop on Mondays,” said Esther Cohen of Woodhaven. “I feel that it gives the community something special to look forward to.”
In line with its mission of helping towards the betterment of the community, Woodhaven Library provides ESL classes to help promote reading and language skills for English learners.
The library is also working with PBS to create a book club for children from Pre-Kindergarten to first grade. The kids meet once a week to discuss the book they had read and do arts and crafts.
“We do these workshops to give children the opportunity to read at an early age,” Alibatya said.
She noted that the library is not a stagnant entity, and the staff takes programs out to the community. The manager goes to schools and senior centers with other librarians to tell them about the programs it offers.
“Many people come to the library just to borrow books,” Alibatya said. “But, the library has many events, like a memoir writing workshop, which we promote to senior centers.”
The Woodhaven Library gives a lot to their community, and many people in the area said they are thankful for it.
“I feel like I am at home when I am in this library,” Kaba said. “I really love this library, and the help it has given to this community.”