BY JON CRONIN
Before beginning his new position as President and CEO of the Queens Library Dennis Walcott is touring the borough’s libraries, meeting with staff and listening and learning about their ideas.
“My main goal is to listen and work in conjunction with the staff,” said Walcott.
Monday, March 14 is his first day on the job but Walcott, a lifelong Queens native, has been hard at work getting to know the individual branches. He said on Friday, March 4 he visited 13 branches and seven more on Monday.
On Monday he met with the City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery at the Flushing branch where the two were reading to children.
He also visited Elmhurst Library which has been closed for almost four years. “It looks gorgeous,” said Walcott. He said the design is bright and open with sitting areas outside, and retention of the original bricks which he called a “nice inclusion.” He said, it is, “A bit of the old.” He hopes this library will be “a beacon of light for the community.”
Regarding the scandal where Borough President Melinda Katz removed members of the Library Board of Trustees after then Library President and CEO Thomas Galante allegedly misappropriated library funding for his own use two years ago, Walcott said, “I don’t dwell on predecessors.”
He said he looks forward to discussions with the board and being as open as possible.
Regardless of what happened in the past, Walcott focuses on what is happening in the present, “There is a lot of good going on in the system.” He said that there are people working hard in the library system to engage the public through programs and tutorials offered. Walcott stated that he is always looking to expand programs and doing more innovative projects.
He looks to invest in different ways of getting information out to the public through a library system that he sees as “The most diverse system in the country.”
Walcott also believes in the importance of a link between the library system and community based organizations.
As former Deputy Mayor and former Schools Chancellor Walcott said he brings to the table a knowledge of who the primary people are in the borough. In those jobs he has overseen the Department of Education and the Department of Youth and Community Development.
His style as a administrator is being accessible. “I will not have an office,” he said, “I’ll have a desk and cubicle on the main floor. That’s how I operate.”
With technology accelerating exponentially, Walcott notes that people are not just interested in the digital age.
After visiting so many branches he noted that people, despite ipads, Nooks, and Kindles, want to take part in the old fashioned way of reading as well. “People want a place to sit down and read,” he said.
He recalled when visiting the Flushing Library, he showed up 45 minutes early, found a spot to sit, opened his book, put his iPad to the side for the moment and began to read.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin