Nearly every Queens Public Library location reopened for full service last week, but the organization announced July 16 that the Flushing branch, the busiest library in the country, will remain closed indefinitely.
The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is to blame, the QPL said in a press release.
“We know very well that the library is the center of community life in Flushing and that it is an invaluable resource. So many people have been looking forward to the library’s reopening and unfortunately it is unclear when this will be possible,” said QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott.
The 23-year-old HVAC system broke down in May. Replacing it will take “a considerable amount of time,” Walcott said. The design, engineering and installation work will take “many months,” and in the meantime the QPL is exploring temporary cooling and heating options.
The Flushing Library would probably have closed for some time anyway, the QPL said: The city had been planning to install a new public elevator in the building in the fall, which would necessitate closure.
The Flushing Library drew 1.7 million visitors in 2019, according to the QPL, making it the busiest in the country. It is particularly popular among immigrants, who utilize the English classes, GED prep courses, technology workshops, job readiness classes and other programs offered there each year. It also houses an adult learning center and an international resource center.
“The Flushing Library holds a special place in Flushing, lying at the heart of our community and acting as a central hub for those seeking to read a book, browse the internet, escape the heat or just meet with friends. As a critical community center for tens of thousands of people, the closure of the Flushing library for any period of time has a tremendous impact on local residents,” said Sandra Ung, the Democratic nominee for City Council District 20.
“Alongside numerous programs like GED courses, [English as a second language] programs and more, the loss of the Flushing library is especially difficult because our community has one of the lowest rates of home broadband access in Queens. Residents rely on the library to do everything from researching term papers to downloading immigrant documents.”
The library will continue its virtual programming, including bilingual storytime and author talks, technology classes, cultural programming and tai chi classes, a QPL spokesperson told the Chronicle. Also, the Flushing Adult Learning Center currently provides all of its programs online, including those in ESL, pre-High School Equivalency, job readiness and more.
The branch has been closed for public use since March 2020, though it did offer to-go service from July to November of last year. It was converted into a Covid-19 vaccination site in March, and will continue to serve as one through the end of the summer, though the effort has been relocated to buses parked outside of the building. The city has begun moving the vaccination operations to an adjacent synagogue.
Library cardholders can visit the Mitchell-Linden, Queensboro Hill, McGoldrick and East Flushing branches, which all fall within 2.5 miles of the Flushing Library during the closure. Those four libraries are open for full service.