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Queens Library Branches Destroyed By Sandy Continue To Help Community

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Several Queens Library branches were severely damaged by Sandy, forcing them to close. But most are doing all they can to rally back to full service while continuing to provide important services to the community. NY1's Roger Clark has the story.

The shelves are empty and the laptops are shot at the Queens Library's Arverne Branch.

Four feet of water rushed into the library during Hurricane Sandy destroying much of what was inside.

"We never expected, like everyone else, that amount of water coming in," said Queens Library President Thomas Galante.

Of the five Queens Library Branches in the Rockaways and Broad Channel, four were hit with nearly $7 million in damages, including $2 million in lost books.

The Peninsula Library branch was one of those that suffered massive damage. But the library rallied to be there for the community as it dealt with its own losses.

"Getting the book bus in operation and down to the peninsula on that first Friday, getting the Far Rockaway Library open on Saturday without power, with FEMA handing out food and blankets," Galante said. "So it was an all hands on deck, let's get down there, what can we do to help."

In Arverne, the library set up a temporary branch in a double wide trailer. Shakira Smalls, a jobs and youth counselor for Queens Library, was displaced from her home by the storm and is working to help neighbors in similar situations.

"The library is not a regular business, it's a community library," Smalls said. "So we are able to give everyone hugs and let them know that we are here for them."

Smalls said her job has expanded as she tries to help residents get back on their feet.

"We are still facilitating our GED programs as well as our computer class, and any sort of job readiness skills, we are here to help them," Smalls said. "We are still running, we are here."

While library officials have said the Broad Channel branch could be reopened as soon as February, it will take months to get things up and running again at the Seaside, Peninsula and Arverne Branches.

But Galante said the Library will remain a presence despite the brick and mortar damage.

"We need to have services here seven days a week to help people retool their lives," Galante said.

Galante said the library has already received some private help to make sure they keep operating in the Rockaways.

If you want to lend a hand, head to queenslibraryfoundation.org.

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