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Facing the Page

The Library Is His Toolbox


Geniene Monterrosa and Tommy Foday at St. George Library Center.Geniene Monterrosa and Tommy Foday at St. George Library Center.

After everything he has been through, Tommy Foday wasn’t going to let a snowstorm keep him from finally learning to read and write.

Nearly 10 years ago, Foday, a torture survivor and refugee from Sierra Leone, was set to have his first adult literacy class at the St. George Library Center on Staten Island on the day of a major snowfall. Though the Library was nearly empty and all the other students stayed home, Foday still made it in — and has remained a dedicated student ever since.

“I came to the Library because I wanted to learn something and do something for myself,” says Foday, a former government driver who had both arms cut off in 1999 during a brutal civil war that ravaged his country. “The Library is the most important tool I have.”  

Since that day, Foday, who came to the U.S. in 2000, has been steadily fulfilling his dream thanks to the help of literacy assistant Monterrosa and other staff members at the Library on the North Shore of Staten Island.

Adult literacy classes and other essential Library services could be dramatically cut back due to a proposed $43 million reduction in funding for The New York Public Library. Please do your part to protect your branch! Sign a letter of support for NYPL today.

Foday is also learning to use the computer at the Library for the first time and is grateful that Library staff ordered a special computer mouse that will make it easier for him to work with his prosthetic. He also recently passed his citizenship test thanks to skills he learned at the Library.

“My parents were poor people. They didn’t put me in school,” says Foday, who now works for a local printing company. “The Library has helped me a lot. It helps me understand how to live in this country.”

Monterrosa, who has worked at the St. George literacy center for 10 years, still remembers Foday’s first day and his first goal: to be able to write a letter to his wife, Theresa, who was still back home in Sierra Leone. “He is so devoted to learning,” says Monterrosa. “The Library has given him so much.”

Please join Tommy Foday and other Library users who depend on NYPL’s services in speaking out against these cuts. If they are not reversed, up to 12 neighborhood libraries could close and the remaining branches could be open just four days a week. It takes just a few clicks to send a letter to your elected officials urging them to restore funding. 


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