March 1, 2016 Staff Report
The Queens Library board has selected Dennis Walcott, a former head of New York City schools, as President and CEO, the library announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes more than a year after Walcott’s predecessor, Thomas Galante, was fired following revelations of extravagant improper spending, including tens of thousands on food, alcohol, entertainment, and a smoking deck next to his office.
Walcott is a life-long Queens resident and former Department of Education Chancellor (2011-2013). He also served as Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and is currently the State-appointed monitor of the East Ramapo school district.
Walcott was chosen after a six-month national search, library spokesperson Zoila Bofill said.
“We are confident that Dennis Walcott has exactly the right skills and depth of experience to lead the Library through the challenging years ahead,” Board Chair Carl Koerner and Vice Chair Judith Bergtraum, who served as chair of the Board’s Search Committee, said in a joint statement released with the appointment announcement.
Borough President Melinda Katz, who was instrumental in Galante’s termination by removing Queens Library board trustees last year who had opposed it, stated her confidence in the new leadership on Tuesday.
“Queens is grateful to the Board of Trustees for their dedication in convening an extensive search and selection process for the new President and CEO,” Katz said in a statement. “I have full faith in the direction and future of the Library, and look forward to the great things to come under Dennis’ leadership.”
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries and former Chief External Affairs Officer at the library, said, “I’m glad that the Library has chosen a proud Queens resident to lead the institution with a steady hand.”
“From working with Mr. Walcott and his wife, who was a member of the first board of the Friends of Cambria Heights Library, I know firsthand how much Mr. Walcott cares about this institution,” Van Bramer added. “I look forward to continued collaboration to ensure the Queens Library reaches its full potential by expanding access to the institution’s precious resources and life changing programs.”
Bridget Quinn-Carey, who served as Interim President and CEO following Galante’s termination, will resume her previous position as Chief Operating Officer.
“I am proud that I have helped to create a solid new foundation based on transparency and advocacy that will benefit millions of Library users for decades to come,” Quinn-Carey told library staff in December, according to a spokesperson. “While one can never say that their work for a constantly evolving and living institution like the Queens Library is ever complete, I am nevertheless satisfied with what we have achieved together and I have decided not to pursue the position of President and CEO.”
For his part, Walcott said, “I look forward to working with all the fantastic, creative, dynamic staff and Friends and visiting every community library, meeting and listening to their ideas and participating in initiatives that make life better and richer for their neighborhoods. I have been a lifelong patron of the Queens Library and wholeheartedly believe in the mission of this great institution.”
Walcott’s appointment by the board is subject to the approval of the State Department of Education. He is expected to officially assume responsibilities on March 14, according to the library.