Dennis M. Walcott has served as the president and CEO of Queens Public Library since March 2016. He has a long career in education and public service, starting as a kindergarten teacher. He served as chancellor of the New York City public school system and as deputy mayor for education and community development under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. In 2022, Mayor Eric Adams appointed Dennis as chair of the New York City districting commission.
If you could give your younger-self advice, what would it be?
One would be to pay attention to my Spanish class in college. My teacher told me I would one day regret not taking it more seriously. He was right. The other, personally more meaningful advice would be to learn as much as possible about my ancestors from my parents. I buried my parents while I was in college, nine months apart. To this day, I regret not asking them more questions about our ancestral lines.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2023, and most looking forward to achieving in 2024?
We have a fantastic team at Queens Public Library and we always find new ways to make sure we are front and center responding to the needs of our communities. I am very proud of our staff’s commitment to continue to provide outstanding service to the public, even amid budget cuts.
Do you have any movie/music/book recommendations for readers to check out in celebration of Black History Month?
Of all the songs that I like, two have always been my north stars – “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.”
Is there a person or organization doing particularly inspiring work that you would like to spotlight?
I would like to spotlight The Havens Relief Fund Society, which provides financial support to struggling New Yorkers who desperately need help. They assist at-risk individuals and families experiencing a financial crisis by giving them a one-time grant, helping them get back on their feet.