Queens Public Library salutes 104-year-old
Hollis resident, the system’s oldest cardholder
BY CARLOTTA MOHAMED
Marking the 104th day of the year, Queens Public
Library (QPL) celebrated the borough’s oldest known
library card holder, 104-year-old Kenneth Neilson, on
Wednesday, April 14, for his long-standing engagement
with the library system — first as an educator
and then as an author and local community leader.
QPL President Dennis Walcott joined Neilson’s
family and friends outside the centenarian’s home in
Hollis for the celebration. As part of the festivities,
the QPL Mobile Library drove by, bedecked with a
special banner for Neilson, as part of the bookmobile’s
spring mini-tour of neighborhoods around the
“Throughout his life, Kenneth Neilson has shown
how one person can make an enormous difference
in their community,” Walcott said. “His devotion
to QPL continues to amaze me. He not only is one of
our most dedicated patrons, but is also committed to
fostering a love of community, of reading, of writing
and of learning. He continues to enrich the lives of
those around him, and for this, we celebrate him today.”
Neilson was awed by the attention, banner and
balloons. However, when asked how he felt about the
recognition, he focused on the role that librarians
play in shaping lives.
“It’s the librarians that make the building, remember.
The library is a building, but the librarians
are the people who make it run,” Neilson said.
With help from his local library branch in south
Hollis, Neilson authored several books which today
appear on the library’s shelves; led a movement to
name P.S. 134 The Langston Hughes School; and organized
a neighborhood block association to force
the city to clean up a derelict public space (which the
association then turned into a garden).
Neilson was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 6, 1917.
Raised in Brooklyn, Neilson has lived in his home
in Hollis since 1953. He is the author of “The World of
Walt Whitman Music” (1963), “The World of Langston
Hughes Music” (1982), “The Littlest Giant” (1979),
“I Love Dandelions” (2007) and “Langston Hughes”
Neilson worked as a public school teacher for 30
TIMESLEDGER | QNS.20 COM | APRIL 23-APRIL 29, 2021
QPL President Dennis Walcott visits Kenneth Neilson at his home in Hollis. Photos courtesy of QPL
years, including as a primary grade teacher at P.S.
108 in Richmond Hill. An enthusiastic library user
especially in his retirement years, Neilson has made
countless calls and visits to staff at the information
desk of his local branch in south Hollis. He has
visited the library numerous times throughout the
decades when doing research for a book or working
on a community project. Neilson holds a bachelor’s
degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree
from New York University.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at
email@example.com or by phone at (718)