Column Description: As a friend of the Cambria Heights Library and a member of the Friends of the Library Section, Aletta is aware of the work, support, and advocacy that the friends provide to and for libraries. Each column will focus on some aspect of being a friend of the library, support that friends provide to libraries or highlighting a friend of the library.

Meet Angela Sinclair, President of the Cambria Heights Friends Group

In October 2021, I interviewed Angela Sinclair, the current President of the Cambria Heights Library Friends group which is part of the Queens Public Library. Ms. Sinclair shared that she migrated to New York from the Republic of Panama at the age of eight years old. She spoke English but not well. She was automatically put in a class for slow-performing students. A third-grade teacher saw potential in her, recognized her skills and abilities, and advocated for her to be placed in a more advanced class.

Angela who is a college graduate with a BA and MA from Hunter College of the City University of New York is grateful to that teacher. Angela said that when she was in junior high school she volunteered at the library. She has always loved books, librarianship, and teaching. Angela is a registered dietician and has worked in hospitals, nursing homes, and for the Department of the Aging. Although, now retired, Angela continues to work occasionally by providing workshops to senior citizens' centers and in the library on nutrition and diet. She has also provided nutrition classes in schools and participated in career and health fairs.

I began asking interview questions and recording Angela Sinclair’s (AS) responses.

Question:  How long have you been a member of the Cambria Heights Friends group?
AS Response: I have been a member since 2008. The Education Committee of the Cambria Heights Civic Association started the Friends group. We saw a need for a teen center located in the basement of the new library building which was being used for storage. We spoke to the politicians, our councilman, and assemblywoman about our wish to have the space in the basement of the Cambria Heights Library turned into a teen center. Thus, the Friends group helped get the teen center created. The cost of the project was over $2 million. The Friends group continued to lobby in Albany and advocate for the library.

Question:   What offices have you held?
AS Response:  I was elected as the Vice President and then as the President.

Question:  How long have you served as President?
AS Response:  I have served as President for between 4 – 5 years.

Question:  Describe some of the programs the Friends group has provided?
AS Response:  During the pandemic, the Friends of Cambria Heights provided virtual children’s programs given by the Queens Botanical Garden on Kitchen Gardening and Plants, Patterns, and Math. Children’s author, Ama Karikari Yawson provided a dramatic interactive reading of her book, Sunne’s Gift. Prior to the pandemic, the friends provided programs in the library for the after-school children on creating a terrarium. The Queens Botanical Garden provided a teacher and all the necessary materials for these programs.  The friends provided the funding. We have had adult painting programs before and virtually during the pandemic. These programs were provided by our Vice President Wanda Best. Ms. Best has also provided programs both in person and virtually on Domestic Violence Awareness each October. We used the funding from a Citizen’s Gardening Grant to provide a variety of informational and entertaining programs virtually during the pandemic. The Open Mic program that we had in April 2021 in celebration of April is National Poetry Month was very popular. It was our second virtual poetry program. We invited neighborhood, community, and library staff members to share one of their favorite poems either original or by a favorite poet. We even had a young poet share his spoken word.

In conclusion, the friends of the library support not only the library but the surrounding community. We inform, advocate, raise funds and recognize how essential libraries and library staff are to the community.

Aletta Seales received her MLS from Queens College, CUNY after retiring from the NYC Department of Education as a teacher/administrator. She has served as library staff and a volunteer at the Queens Public Library since 2007. Currently, Aletta is the secretary of the Cambria Heights Library Friends group which is part of the Queens Public Library.