Education

2019 boys and girls participants in Boys and Girls State from Greenlawn American Legion.

The American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 each year selects  high school juniors to send to a weeklong summer camp called Boys and Girls State. The educational program’s instruction on government is regarded as one of the best for U.S. high school students. 

Last week, the organization received a $5,000 grant from state Sen. Jim Gaughran’s (D-Northport) office and has become a significant source of funding that expects to help grow the local program. 

“We’ve been receiving typically $50 and $100 from people to sponsor kids,” said Legionnaire Charlie Armstrong, who organizes the program for the Greenlawn post on a volunteer basis. It cost about $500 to send each student.

The post funded 22 kids last year, 20 boys and 2 girls from local high schools. They are currently in the process of talking with principals and guidance counselors at 10 to 12 local school districts and expect to identify candidates for the 2020 season in the upcoming months. The additional revenue means the post can likely fund more students to attend. 

“The American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 is committed to ensuring students are exposed to how government is supposed to function,” Gaughran said. “These are critical teachings which allow students real exposure to the fundamentals of government and encourage young adults to be active, engaged citizens. I am proud to provide funding to allow them to expand this great program and thank the Greenlawn American Legion for their unwavering commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for our youth.”

William Floyd student Damian O’Malley participated in the 2019 session, which he said taught him about leadership and the benefits of teamwork. He said it was by far one of the best experiences he’s ever had. He engaged in county, city and party caucuses, which, he said caused him to speak out for which position he wanted. 

“I also got to step out of my comfort zone, when I stood in front of everyone in my county and ran for county judge,” he said. “During the week, I met so many people who I would have never gotten the chance to meet, had it not been for this experience.” 

The program dates back to the 1930s, but the Greenlawn Post has been running its program since 2009. Each year more and more students from the area are participating, though more opportunities are available for Boys State than Girls State, which is organized through the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. 

“When we saw the positive effect this program had on the students we sent, it became our goal to give as many more young people as possible the opportunity to have this experience,” Armstrong said. “After all, they are the future of our country.”

The program aims to objectively expose students to the rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of a franchised citizen and includes practical training with fictitious local city, county and state governments created by students who are elected and appointed to various offices.  Some of the program’s more prominent graduates includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, astronaut Neil Armstrong and television reporter Jane Pauley. Locally New York State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Asher and Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) are graduates of the program. Former President Bill Clinton, who famously shook the hand of then President John F. Kennedy as a Boys State/Nation candidate, is memorialized in an iconic photo that reveals the aspiring glance of a future world leader. 

In a telephone interview Asher said that the program for him was formidable and a very positive experience. Asher attended in 1958 and met two college friends during the training, one that became his college roommate and a lifelong friend. 

“It was a very structured environment, a bit like the military,” he said. “We learned about local governments and the issues of the day and held elections for town, county and state governments and had time for sports competition and music.”

He said the lesson to be learned is:  Be involved in your community and public service. 

The funding will allow 11 Long Island high school students to attend the program. It is the first year Greenlawn is receiving money from the New York State Senate for the program. 

Students interested in applying must be in their junior year of high school and should contact either their guidance counselor or Charlie Armstrong at 917-337-2234 or by email at kiitos@verizon.net.  

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By Julianne Mosher

Children watched and cheered in awe as their principal, Tom Meehan, climbed to the top of a fire ladder parked in the back lot of Edna Louise Spear Elementary Friday, Oct. 4. He flew above the kids, dressed in his volunteer firefighter uniform, to help teach his students about fire safety and prevention. 

Along with Meehan, several members from the Port Jefferson Fire Department came to the school with two large fire trucks to show kids that firefighters aren’t scary and, instead, they’re here to help.

“We don’t want children to be afraid of the fire department,” Meehan said, “We’re here today to get them more comfortable with us in case there’s an emergency.”

Meehan added that the volunteer firefighters have been visiting the school for about nine years and have unfortunately visited the homes of students in the past. The event on Oct. 4 helped get the kids excited to see the department, including five-year-old Logan Devine who excitedly compared them to superheroes. 

“Firefighters save persons from fire,” the kindergartner said, “They help us like Spider-Man!”

During the fire prevention event, those in uniform let the kids high-five them, let them play with the fire hose and question them on what they know about fire safety. The kids were reminded on what to do in case there is trouble, like dialing 911.

“It’s important to show the community that we’re here to help,” Christian Neubert, a music teacher with the school and volunteer fireman, said. “We take pride in it and take it seriously.”

Neubert added that the Port Jeff Fire Department is made out of 100 volunteers, many who are lifelong community members. Men and women from all types of career paths are on call, ready to help out, and new members are always welcomed. 

 

Port Jefferson shops such as Hookah City on Main Street, above, sell hookahs. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson officials have made explicit their antipathy for the vape and smoke shop in the village, especially after news broke an employee had been cited for selling to children underage.

Hookah City, located at 202 Main St. in Port Jefferson was recently charged with unlawfully dealing with a child in a countywide police sting labeled Operation Vape Out. It was amongst 32 establishments that Suffolk County police said were cited for illicit behavior, most concerning selling tobacco products to children under the legal age limit of 21.

“All eyes are on that place,” said Trustee Kathianne Snaden during a conversation after the Sept. 23 village board meeting.

“It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

— Paul Casciano

Mayor Margot Garant said they had asked Village Attorney Brian Egan about the shop but were told there is nothing in village code that allows the village to affect a business in such a way, adding there was nothing that violated their lease. 

Fred Leute, the acting chief of code enforcement, said constables take reports and inform Suffolk County police regarding businesses selling to people underage. Leute added they had originally sent notice to police about the shop.

“Kids would come in and put their knapsack down — they would have money on the knapsack, and a note stapled to it what they wanted,” the acting chief said. “The guy who they caught would take that note, fill their order, so to speak, and put the stuff in the bag, then the kid would come by and take their bag.”

A manager or owner of Hookah City could not be reached for comment before press time.

New York State was originally set to ban the creation and sale of flavored e-cigarette products Oct. 4, but a day before the deadline the state appellate court put that order on hold until the court reconvenes Oct. 18. The proposed ban came after a wave of health cases the U.S. Centers for Disease Control attributed to vaping, among them were several deaths. As at Oct. 8, there have been 1,080 cases of injury nationwide with 23 deaths. There have been 110 cases attributed to New York, according to the state’s health department. On the same day, the death of a Bronx teen was announced as the first confirmed fatality in New York related to vape products.

Under the 1992 state Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act, each time a vendor is caught selling tobacco products to a person under the age of 21, that vendor will acquire two points on their license. If the vendor acquires three points within a three-year period of time, the vendor will lose its tobacco and lottery ticket licenses.

Though as of recently this is the first infraction in a number of years. Suffolk police’s research section found Hookah City has had no other infractions of selling to minors since the beginning of 2016. 

Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, according to New York State health officials.

Parents and school officials in Port Jefferson said not only are kids using vape products excessively in school but are doing so sometimes in the middle of classrooms and clandestinely in bathrooms.

Soon-to-be-outgoing Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a sit-down interview that districts all across the county have been dealing with the same thing. While the district has added vape detectors, students will either blow the smoke into backpacks or lockers to avoid smoke detectors or find areas of the school without the detectors. Incoming Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said at the last school board meeting the district takes away vape products from students, who are then disciplined.

“The kids aren’t producing this stuff, and that for me and among my colleagues is one of the most disturbing parts — adults are creating these things,” Casciano said. “It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

The district recently played host to the countywide peer education pilot program about the dangers of vaping. 

But for the one last vape shop in Port Jeff, the focus has come down hard on its shoulders for the number of students who have continued to vape. Casciano said there is little the district can do to affect the businesses in and around Port Jeff, many of whom sell vape and e-cig products. The most they can do is applaud current activities from New York State and continue to educate young people about vape products.

“The local efforts, whether its local or state officials, those have all helped, because if you can’t get your hands on the flavors … it will be even more difficult for them,” Schmettan said.

The mayor mentioned limiting vaping in village parks, but she later said that, unlike cigarettes which offer physical discomfort and negative health effects to pedestrians, it would be hard to enforce with citations.

“I think it goes back to the household.”

— Margot Garant

Snaden said the issue of vaping needs an effort on all ends. She suggested the school district should include harsher penalties to students who use vape products in schools, including potentially kicking them off sport teams. 

“If everywhere these kids turn, everywhere they turn they’re being shown this is not accepted in this village, they’re either going to take it somewhere else — we’re not going to alleviate the problem altogether — we have to hit them everywhere they turn,” she said. “They have to get turned away everywhere, that’s how we can get the message across.”

Village code currently disallows new smoke shops in Port Jefferson, but Hookah City was grandfathered in when the code was changed in 2016. Garant said during the Oct. 7 village board meeting that with the current code, they are looking to enforce other businesses within the village to limit the sale of vape products. 

“They would all have to become vape dispensaries, so we’re cracking down on them ourselves,” she said. 

She added that vaping, just like any other drug use, often requires work from those closest to the youth.

“I think it goes back to the household,” the mayor said.

Three Village Central School District becomes the first school district in New York to join a national lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul. TBR News Media file photo

Three Village Central School District is joining the fight against vaping devices.

In a letter from Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and Board of Education President William Connors, the district announced it became the first school district in New York to join a national lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul.

“As educators, it is our duty to protect the health and safety of our students, and we believe this company is compromising those efforts while simultaneously disrupting the educational process by marketing to teens,” Pedisich and Connors wrote.

Officials stated in the letter that legal fees will be covered by the firms representing the parties in the suit and will not come from district taxes.

The district officials said in the letter vaping devices are easy for teenagers to hide and use. 

“This epidemic, while a national one, has had a direct and grave impact on our local school community,” school officials said. “As a district, we have needed to divert resources and deploy new ones to combat the problem of teen vaping.”

Three Village has installed devices to detect vaping, created prevention programs, adjusted health curricula to focus on the dangers of vaping, created a new student assistant counselor position to focus on prevention and treatment, and embraced new disciplinary actions and a districtwide zero-tolerance policy on vaping, according to the letter.

Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, according to New York State officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for children, teens and young adults, as most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful substances. According to the agency, highly-addictive nicotine can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

As at Oct. 8, the CDC has reported 1,080 vaping-associated illnesses in the United States with 23 deaths. There have been 110 cases attributed to New York, according to the state’s health department. On the same day, the death of a Bronx teen was announced as the first confirmed fatality related to vape products in New York.

 

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File Photo

Shoreham-Wading River High School was one of 362 schools recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019 as announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Sept. 26. The distinction is the second time the school has been honored, being one of the early honorees in the 37-year-old program as a 1987-88 Blue Ribbon School.

“This honor points to the collaborative efforts of our administrators, teachers, students, families and larger community in helping to encourage, engage and educate students who graduate from our high school as productive members of society,” said SWR High School Principal Frank Pugliese.

In her remarks via a video message to the honorees DeVos stated the schools important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives.

“As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning,” she said.

The department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, student subgroup scores and graduation rates:

• Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools are measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

• Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

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Sophia Zhukovsky, a Stony Brook University sophomore and Ward Melville High School graduate, addresses the school board Sept. 18. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Activism is strong in Three Village.

At the Sept. 18 Three Village school board meeting, parents, students and alumni came out in support of an issue that has concerned many members of the community: school start times.

“It’s very strenuous to strive for academic and personal success on half the medically recommended sleep time for people my age.”

Sophia Zhukovsky

Earlier in the month, the board heard from parents in favor of later start times for the district’s three secondary schools. Last week, the board heard from Ward Melville graduates and students, themselves.

“Sleep deprivation does not have to be a part of Ward Melville culture,” said Sophia Zhukovsky, a sophomore at Stony Brook University and a Ward Melville graduate.

“Ward Melville has a great deal of high-achieving, dedicated and bright students, but it also has a great deal of exhausted students,” she said. “It’s very strenuous to strive for academic and personal success on half the medically recommended sleep time for people my age.”

Student and parent speakers echoed Zhukovsky’s sentiments. They described mornings as a “time of family anxiety and stress” and shared personal stories about the impact of sleep deprivation on family time and emotional health.

“Even 30 minutes would do a lot for students at the school in terms of both mental health and for fostering community,” wrote Kirti Nath, 2017 Ward Melville valedictorian. Nath couldn’t attend the meeting, but her letter was read to the board by high school student Natalia Newton.

“Ward Melville is undeniably one of the best public high schools that I know of, and I am incredibly grateful to have gotten my start there,” said Nath, a University of Pennsylvania sophomore. “I write this because I think that the Ward Melville experience can be even better.”

Annemarie Waugh, a local artist, P.J. Gelinas parent and founder of Sidewalks For Safety, said allowing students more time to sleep would “level the playing field” both athletically and academically. She added yet another concern.

“The system now encourages inexperienced teenage drivers to be driving in the dark at the same time other students are waiting on busy roads with no sidewalks in the dark,” she said. “This arrangement doubles the risk of tragedy.”

In addition to drawing even more supporters than the previous board meeting, the It’s About Time: Three Village Parents For A Later School Start Time movement gathered more than 1,400 signatures in a little more than a week.

But breaking through the chorus of support for a later secondary start time was Vincent Sperandeo, a parent of Ward Melville graduates. “Changing us would also mean that other districts would have to change as well,” he said.

He pointed out that Ward Melville was within the range of start times for surrounding school districts and changing Three Village’s junior high and high school start times would have to be done “in coordination with other districts.”

While Ward Melville starts at 7:05 am, nearby districts range in start time from the 7:02 a.m. warning bell at Miller Place High School to 7:10 a.m. at Comsewogue High School, 7:20 a.m. in Smithtown and 7:30 a.m. in Commack, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai.

“The real world out there is not starting at 9 o’clock,” Sperandeo said. “The real world out there is starting when your job is telling you to start.”

Although districts in the immediate area have start times well before 8 a.m., schools across the nation have been taking a serious look at delaying start times.  Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2014 that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., attention to the issue has grown. The State of California has even gone so far as to propose a bill pushing back start times for all of its secondary schools.

According to research, biological changes in the adolescent circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Waking up to catch an early bus interrupts the later part of their sleep cycle, preventing them from getting the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep their developing bodies and brains need.

Researchers at Seattle’s University of Washington and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, found that students at two Seattle high schools that changed to later start times got more sleep during the week, had fewer tardies and absences in their first period classes and had improved academic performance.

“Changing us would also mean that other districts would have to change as well.”

— Vincent Sperandeo

Despite the abundance of information favoring later start times, most U.S. high schools start before 8:30 a.m., and some schools that considered change decided against it because of logistics.

That’s why Barbara Rosati, founder of It’s About Time, has suggested that Three Village officials attend the Adolescent Health and School Start Times Workshop, in Pennsylvania, which would cover the “science, strategies, logistics and tips” for making a shift.

The Nov. 13 workshop is already full. However, the website indicated that the organizer — the national group, Start School Later — was considering a second session.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, who described the research on later start times as “cogent, valid and reliable,” said last week that the district would begin phase 1 of its investigation into the shift. This would mean “data gathering” so that there could be “meaningful conversation,” she said.

This process, the superintendent said, would include surveys of parents, staff and students, as well as conversations with districts that have made the time change and those that considered it, but decided against it. Pedisich estimated that if the board moved forward with a committee, it would take shape in January.

“The last thing in the world we want to do is give the impression that we’re not listening,” said board president William Connors during a telephone interview. “Fourteen hundred signatures is compelling and shows we have to listen and do our due diligence.”

But there are also a lot of factors to consider, he added, such as the “domino” effect on other grades and the fact that a shift could cost the district “literally millions of dollars” in additional transportation costs.

“I don’t like the idea of kids getting up at 5 in the morning, but we have to look at the alternatives and establish our priorities,” Connors said.

On Aug. 30, the American Association for State and Local History presented an Award of Excellence to the Three Village Historical Society for the society’s Founders Day program. The program is conducted each spring for Three Village Central School District fourth-grade students.

Donna Smith and Steve Healy (center) receive the AASLH Award of Excellence on behalf of the Three Village Historical Society at the AASLH Awards Dinner in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30 in photo with John Fleming, AASLH Chair on the left, AASLH Predient & CEO John R. Dichtl on the right.

As a direct result of the program, during the 2017-18 school year, Setauket School fourth-grade students produced videos about each of the 12 Vance Locke murals in the Setauket School Auditorium. The students, with the assistance of their teachers and Andy Weik, lead teacher for instructional technology for the district, wrote and produced the videos.

Because of the work of the students, the  auditorium was opened to the public for the first time on the 2018 Culper Spy Day. To make the videos available to anyone visiting the auditorium, a QR code was added below each mural. The follow-up to the Founders Day program by Setauket School fourth-grade students gave an added impetus for the decision to present the Three Village Historical Society with the AASLH Award of Excellence.

On Sept. 10, members of the Founders Day Committee Donna Smith, TVHS education director; Beverly Tyler, TVHS historian; Karen Mizell, Setauket School principal; Lindsey Steward-Goldberg, TVHS committee member; along with Steve Healy, TVHS president  met with the 110, now sixth-grade, Setauket School students and teachers to congratulate them on their part in the Founders Day Award.

Smith and Tyler thanked the Setauket School, Principal Karen Mizell and the Three Village Central School District for their partnership with the Three Village Historical Society and the Founders Day Committee over the 14-year (2006-2019) existence of the Founders Day program. The event was also attended by Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Leg. Kara Hahn.

Supervisor Ed Romaine thanks the students.

Supervisor Romaine spoke briefly to the students before presenting the Three Village Historical Society with a proclamation officially announcing Sept. 10 as Three Village Historical Society Day for its efforts in promoting local history. “Two years ago when you were in fourth grade you were able to take videos photos of the Grist Mill and other historic sites around town … and members of the Three Village Historical Society took your work to the AMA and they won an award which says one thing — you’re all great historians,” Romaine told the students.

“Our history is so important to us as a community in establishing our sense of place and understanding where we came from and how the people who founded this community helped to make it the great place that it is today,” said Leg. Hahn. “And so I hope you are learning a lot about our local community thanks to the wonderful volunteers at the historical society and all of your teachers … to help you understand how important Setauket was to the founding of this nation.”

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Social studies teacher Rich Acritelli (far right) welcomes students and guests to Rocky Point’s annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Photo from RPUFSD

Students, teachers and administrators filled the Rocky Point High School auditorium for its annual program commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

The event, spearheaded by social studies teacher Rich Acritelli, brought in members of the Rocky Point VFW and Suffolk County Police Department. Speakers this year included representatives from the FealGood Foundation, first responders and survivors of the attacks. 

All of the students in attendance were not even alive during the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Anthony Flammia, the director of community outreach for the FealGood Foundation, spoke about his experiences serving on the New York Police Department’s highway patrol on 9/11 as well as working with the organization that supports and advocates for the first responders when the towers fell. 

“In 2005, the foundation was founded by construction worker John Feal who because of his time working at Ground Zero caused him to lose part of his foot,” the Miller Place resident said. “He had to advocate for himself as no one in government believed that these illnesses were due to his work at Ground Zero.”

The foundation advocates for first responders rights and has assisted in the passage of 13 9/11-related health bills at both the state and federal level. It has also donated $6.5 million to both uniform and nonuniform first responders who are in need of financial help. 

He also spoke about the foundation working with Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” and how he walked the halls of Congress with them to advocate for first responders rights. 

To help give students an idea of what it was like 18 years ago from a student’s perspective, the district asked Lila Nordstrom, who was a student at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, speak about how she had witnessed the attacks from her classroom. 

“My teacher taught through the collapse of the first tower, he taught for a good hour as a crisis was happening outside our windows,” she said. “We didn’t know what else to do and when we finally evacuated, we were just told to run North.”

She also spoke about when she and her classmates returned to the school, cleanup at Ground Zero was in full swing. Many were unaware at the time that due to the close proximity to the cleanup the school was contaminated. 

In 2006, Nordstrom became a 9/11 activist. She has worked to bring awareness to the school children who were exposed to toxic fumes during the cleanup and has worked with the FealGood Foundation in advocating for 9/11 health bills. 

“It gave something positive to move forward out of that trauma,” she said.

At the conclusion of the program, Acritelli spoke on the importance of this event. 

“It is just very important, some of these students weren’t even born yet,” he said. “[Today] was very powerful, it is important that they know what emergency personnel and residents in this area did on that day.”

Photo from SBU

Photo from SBU

Join Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook for CommUniversity Day at the Academic Mall on Sept. 21 from noon to 4 p.m.

Enjoy sports demonstrations, hands-on activities, duck races, health screenings and giveaways, patriotic crafts, farmers market, SBU Marching Band and more.

Free admission. All are welcome. Visit www.stonybrook.edu/SBUCommUniversity for more information.

Libraries across Suffolk County will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the internet has connected the world, libraries across Suffolk County have never been as linked as they are today with both patrons and each other.

The written word is strong, despite claims to the contrary, especially with the proliferation of e-books and audiobooks. Suffolk County’s Library System allows for libraries to request books from fellow libraries and gives access to multitudes of e-books and audiobooks alike, all free on request, barring a wait list.

Some publishing companies are not happy with the status quo.

Macmillan Publishers, an international corporation and one of the top five publishing houses across the globe, announced its intent to limit the number of copies allowed to libraries to one for the first eight weeks of release starting Nov. 1. After those eight weeks, they can purchase “expiring” e-book copies which need to be re-purchased after two years or 52 lends.

The Port Jefferson Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

While this decision has rocked libraries across the country, in Suffolk County, as the interlibrary program and e-book lending is handled by the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, that will mean one copy of an e-book for the entire system, according to Kevin Verbesey, director of the county library system. Just one e-book license for the whole of Suffolk and its near 1.5 million residents for the first eight weeks of its release.

To add some perspective, Verbesey said a hot new title could have thousands of residents on a wait list for the title, and the county library system usually tries to have one copy of said book for every two or three people requesting it. Like any anticipated piece of media, new and highly anticipated titles are most often sought and bought in those first eight weeks. Following that, barring renewed interest from something like a movie deal, attention begins to wane. Basically, the library system, which would usually purchase hundreds of licenses of that book, will effectively be restricted from having any. 

In socioeconomic terms, Verbesey said it means people who can afford it can buy a book. Those who can’t afford it will have their access restricted.

“In some parts of the county where there’s not great socioeconomic need, people have the option to ‘press buy’ and buy it for $12, but that’s not the case everywhere,” Verbesey said. “Rich people can have it, but poor people can’t.”

The North Shore is one of Suffolk County’s heaviest concentration of library users, the county library system director said. Those patrons could see some of the biggest impact of this decision.

Debbie Engelhardt, the Comsewogue Public Library director, said her patrons are savvy and know when books are set to hit the street, and they depend on the library to have e-book copies available.

North Shore Libray will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a long history of working very hard to get things into people’s hands as quickly as we can,” she said. “Think about a tiny little library someplace, they can buy one, and then all of Suffolk County can buy one. It just doesn’t seem equitable.”

Engelhardt said libraries often have deals to purchase books cheaper than retail price through deals with publishers. They will also create lease agreements to gather numerous copies of whatever is popular at the time, so they are not later burdened with multiple copies of that same tome. 

Ted Gutmann, the director of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, also pointed to the interlibrary loan system, which means not every library will need to purchase every book as long as it’s available nearby. 

E-books, on the other hand, are purchased by libraries for sometimes five times its original asking price. A regular e-book could cost around $12. A library or library system will purchase it at around $50 or $60, according to Verbesey. This is because libraries need to buy the licensing agreement of the copy in order to lend it to multiple people over the course of its license before the agreement expires in a few years. Each publisher has different policies on how long the licenses last and what is the cost for relicensing a product. 

The Suffolk library system has an annual budget of $14 million, with $4 million being spent directly on e-books and for the services of Overdrive, an application used by libraries to distribute their electronic media. E-books currently make up approximately one of every four checkout items from libraries in Suffolk. 

Despite the price of these books, Verbesey said they are happy to purchase what can be hundreds of licenses of that one e-book if there’s demand. This new policy would make it pointless to purchase any copies.

Macmillan did not respond to a request for comment, but in its original July 25 letter to Macmillan authors and agents announcing the change, CEO John Sargent wrote, “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an e-book for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American e-book reader is starting to lean heavily toward free … Our new terms are designed to protect the value of your books during their first format publication. But they also ensure that the mission of libraries is supported. They honor the libraries’ archival mandate and they reduce the cost and administrative burden associated with e-book lending. We are trying to address the concerns of all parties.”

The changes came after the corporation tested a 16-week embargo with e-books from its subsidiary Tor Publishing, concluding e-book lending had a negative impact on sales.

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overdrive CEO Steve Potash condemned the move, calling the company’s original test data faulty adding that very few Tor e-books are available in public library catalogs. He pointed to other studies that showed libraries had no material impact on e-book sales.

Authors published under MacMillan include romance author Nora Roberts, young adult fantasy based in African myth Tomi Adeyemi, and even famous and deceased authors such as C.S. Lewis. The company is also set to publish whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s memoirs this month, which is sure to become a hotly requested item.

And though the libraries have no control over the publisher’s requests, some expect the onus to fall on the individual libraries themselves. 

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in e-book format, it’s the library — not the publisher — that feels the heat,” said American Library Association President Wanda Brown in a July 25 statement. “It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs,” she added.

Engelhardt pointed to data from the national Library Journal’s Generational Reading Survey for 2019, which showed 42 percent of those surveyed purchased the same book they borrowed from the library, and 70 percent bought another book of the same author of a book they borrowed. She added libraries are some of the biggest promoters for individual books, authors and literacy in general, and Macmillan may only be hurting its own brand.

While the limitation on e-book lending won’t be in effect until November, libraries are already preparing to tell their patrons why Macmillan books won’t be available electronically. 

“We’re going to have to explain the publisher is not working with local libraries,” she said.