Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called for the Queens Library to take a fresh look at its policies, procedures and protocols and to allow for more transparency over its spending decisions during her testimony today before a City Council hearing called to investigate recent media reports about the Library’s financial practices.
The reports raised questions about whether the Queens Library spent excessive amount of money on amenities it put in place at its executive offices at the Central Library building in Jamaica. They also raised an issue as to whether the compensation package awarded to the Queens Library’s president and CEO is excessive.
In her testimony, Katz said the controversy brought about by these reports illustrated the need for the Queens Library to become more open to the public about how it decides to spend its money, the vast majority of which is made up of taxpayer funds allocated to the Library by the City of New York.
“The Library must hold itself accountable to the citizenry it was created to serve,” Katz said in testimony prepared for today’s hearing. ‘The Library must hold itself accountable for maintaining infrastructure, implementing core programs and making wise budgetary decisions that will not only benefit the Library users of today, but the generations of Library users to come.”
Katz also said the controversy showed that the Library’s Board of Trustees needs to reexamine its operations to make sure it can exercise proper governance and robust oversight.
“Any institution, even the best run, can benefit from a self-diagnostic that identifies which policies work well and which ones need to be revisited or revised,” Katz said.
Among the specific recommendations Katz made in her testimony was a call for the Board of Trustees to form an audit committee that would meet regularly with the Library’s independent auditors to review the Library’s finances. She also said there should be a systematic review of executive compensation and regular training for the Trustees on how to analyze financial statements and budget documents.
Katz’s testimony was delivered in the Council Chambers at City Hall during a joint meeting of the Council’s Committee on Finance, its Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and its Subcommittee on Libraries.