Library

Sachem Public Library’s new outdoor nature classroom will feature a cascading water table similar to the one depicted above. Stock photo

By Sabrina Petroski

For several weeks now, visitors to Sachem Public Library in Holbrook have noticed a flurry of activity outside of the children’s wing. Now the state-of-the-art award-winning library is finally ready to unveil its latest offering, Discovery Grove, with an official ribbon cutting ceremony on July 27.

The new outdoor nature classroom will be a place for children from birth through sixth grade to experience the great outdoors in a safe environment. The fenced-in area will be open year round during daylight hours for the community to enjoy. 

The Dig In area at Sachem Public Library in its final stages. Photo from Sachem Public Library

According to the head of Children’s Services, Amy Johnston, she and her colleague Lisa Stevens came up with the idea in response to the movement by author Richard Louv called No Child Left Inside. Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, stating that the younger generations spend too much time indoors on electronic devices and lack a connection with the outside world. 

Both Johnston and Stevens felt a duty to their community to help more children get “down and dirty” while exploring the beauty of nature and the world around them.

“We both have a passion for getting children outside,” said Johnston in a recent phone interview. “We grew up being outside all the time, and we’ve noticed that kids are not going outside as much.” 

Discovery Grove will feature an area with a cascading water table, a digging area, an art area, large building blocks, sticks and logs, a stage where kids can use outdoor musical instruments to put on shows, as well as a community garden. 

According to Neely McCahey, the library director, the board of trustees is hoping this will be a way for the library to extend the services it offers the community. 

There will be programs available exclusively in the grove, including one titled Dig In. Facilitated by Stevens, 4- and 5-year olds will receive nature experience through art, movement and free play, which will lay a foundation for environmental literacy for the children of the Sachem district.

“We hope to show children that it’s okay to get wet and we will have boots and rain ponchos on hand for kids to use during inclement weather,” said Johnston. “It’s okay to be slightly uncomfortable being cold,” she explained, adding, “these are all learning moments that children aren’t often exposed to.”

McCahey agreed, saying, “We want parents to let [their children] experience things, to fall down, bump their knees, and get dirty. I think parents nowadays think dirt is not good, but kids need to get their hands in the dirt and take some calculated risks. Safe risks like climbing and jumping are good things,” she said. “I hope Discovery Grove will be a place where parents feel comfortable letting their children run free.”

The community is invited to the ribbon cutting on Friday, July 27, from 4 to 6 p.m. with a rain date of Aug. 3. The event will be attended by elected officials, chamber of commerce members, civic groups, the board of trustees and other library colleagues who have made donations to the creation of Discovery Grove.

“We are excited to bring this to our patrons as another extension of what we do here at the library,” said Johnston. “We’re not just books anymore, we are a community center where parents and children can come and experience all different things. We will be working closely with parents and caregivers, encouraging them to embrace new ideas and behaviors while experiencing Discovery Grove with their children. It is here for them, created for them, and we hope that they will take full advantage of this opportunity to explore and grow together!”

Sachem Public Library is located at 150 Holbrook Road in Holbrook. For more information, visit www.sachemlibrary.org or call 631-588-5024. 

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

By Melissa Arnold

Artie Weingartner

For as long as Artie Weingartner has taken photos, his focus has always been on others.

Weingartner, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma, is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has faithfully chronicled the work of the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society and is the official photographer for the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

Now, for the month of July, the focus is on him as Sachem Public Library presents an exhibit featuring a wide array of Weingartner’s photos in a collection titled Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma.

It’s an odd feeling for 58-year-old Weingartner, who admits it took a serious push from friends and loved ones to move forward with the exhibit. But nothing makes him happier than bringing joy to the people who see his photos.

“I like seeing people’s reactions to pictures and hearing their feedback — it really makes me feel good, and it makes me want to do it more. I love the rush of satisfaction that comes with it. I guess you could say I’m addicted to it,” he laughed.

Lake Ronkonkoma on a fall day

While photography has piqued his interest for decades, it took a long time for Weingartner to really find his niche. His father bought him his first camera, a simple Kodak, when he was just 9 years old. But he admitted feeling frustrated over the process of shooting a roll of film, waiting to have it developed, and then discovering that many of the photos were duds. “I didn’t have the patience for [traditional photography],” he said. “Not being able to see what the result was right away was hard for me.”

When digital photography emerged in the early 2000s, Weingartner was thrilled. Finally, he had the instant gratification of seeing each photo, with no wasted film and the option to delete ones he didn’t like with the push of a button. His love for photography was rekindled, and he hasn’t looked back. 

He began casually taking photos of his kids’ sports matches, plays and concerts. Word spread quickly about his natural talent. “Parents stopped bringing their cameras around and my pictures were used more and more. It became a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Weingartner said.

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

Now that his children are grown, the photographer is focusing more on chronicling the history of Lake Ronkonkoma. On a frigid day in January of 2016, he was invited by Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society member Matt Balkam to photograph the historic Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead on Pond Road. The 14-room home was built in 1888 and contains all of the original furnishings of the Hallock family. In 2006, the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society took over the care of the home, and it is now the only historic home in the community that remains open for tours and other public programming.

That experience would lead Weingartner to become regularly involved with the historical society and the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

In 2016, News12 contacted Evelyn Vollgraff, the president of the historical society, about filming in the area for a show covering historic places on Long Island. When reporter Danielle Campbell arrived at Long Island’s largest freshwater lake with Vollgraff, she was horrified to see how neglected and filthy the body of water was.

Fog encompasses Lake Ronkonkoma

Campbell, Vollgraff and several others put the word out on social media that they wanted to work on beautifying the area. The response was beyond anything Vollgraff anticipated. “We never asked for help. We just did it,” she recalled. “People got interested — legislators, councilmen. At the first meeting, 90 people were there asking what they could do and how they could help. The community came together in an amazing way. We have joined together as groups of friends that wanted to help our community. But now many of them are a part of the historical society as well, and most importantly, they’re my friends.”

In early 2017, the group held its first cleanup of the lake. Weingartner was there that day, too. They have since removed more than 300 tons of trash from the lake, and turned an old bookstore destroyed by fire into the historic Larry’s Landing, a popular hangout named for the bookstore’s late owner, Larry Holzapfel.

“Artie showed up with a camera at one of the cleanups and just started taking pictures — that’s just who he is,” Vollgraff said. “You have to record history. I can’t save every house in Ronkonkoma, but with Artie taking pictures, the history lives on forever.”

The community has also expressed its gratitude for Artie’s work through Facebook, where he frequently posts his photos on the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group and Sachem Sports pages.

“People were coming out of the woodwork from Florida or South Carolina who lived there 30 years ago to say how much it meant to them to see pictures of the place they grew up,” Weingartner said. “When I first moved to Long Island from Queens in 1970, we used to swim in the lake, but over a few years it got so dirty that we didn’t swim there anymore. Before that, people used to come out from Manhattan just to spend time at the lake. It’s always been an important, historic part of this community.”

While the exhibit is named Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma, Weingartner said it encompasses a range of subjects, including sports and landscapes from other parts of Long Island, including Port Jefferson and Belle Terre. More than 75 framed 8-by-10 prints are on display. His favorite photo features Lake Ronkonkoma at sunset, with two birds and sunlight streaming down to the shore. All the photos were taken with a Nikon D600.

The photography show also includes guest contributions from photographers Richard Cornell and Richard Yezdanian.“This exhibit will be interesting to people in our area because [the lake and other scenes] are literally in our backyard,” said Anne Marie Tognella who works in programming and public relations at Sachem Public Library. “It captures many of the scenes that we see and appreciate every day with natural and historic value.”

Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook will present Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma in its art gallery on the lower level through the month of July. Join them for an artist reception on Saturday, July 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

From left, Eliana Sasson, Nicole Freeley, Rebecca Blumenthal, Samuel Kim

On Monday evening, April 23, Emma Clark Library, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and guests from the community gathered to honor the winners of the fourth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award.

At the ceremony in the Vincent R. O’Leary Community Room, Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners a bound copy of their book. In addition, the books will be added to the library’s Local Focus Collection.

 A $400 scholarship was awarded to first-prize winner Rebecca Blumenthal of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School for her children’s book, “Racing Star,” and Ward Melville High School student Nicole Freeley for her book titled “Wally’s Wild Ride.” 

A $100 check for second prize was awarded to P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School student Eliana Sasson for her book “This Is How I Can Help! 10 Ways I Can Help My Community!” and Ward Melville High School student Samuel Kim for his informative children’s book, “Freddy the Fish and His First Election Day.” 

Gutmann explained that the event “really helps us to showcase the wonderful talent we have here, and we thank the authors and their parents for encouraging that and being here tonight.”

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), and Carol Nucci [representing Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport)] spoke at the event, and the winners also received certificates from Flanagan, Hahn and Cartright.  

Library Board Treasurer Deborah Blair and Trustee Richard Russell were there to congratulate the winners and Three Village school district BOE President William Connors, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Scanlon, Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum, Ward Melville High School Librarian April Hatcher, Murphy Jr. High School English Department Chair Cathy Duffy and Murphy Jr. High School Librarian Betsy Knox were all in attendance.

The Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book. Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort of an author and an illustrator. The award is given in memory of Helen Stein Shack by her family.  

“As Ms. Shack clearly knew, children’s literature does a lot for the community, as well as the young children themselves. It helps to promote brain development, it helps to promote language development, literacy skills, as well as creating an important bonding moment for families,” said Cartright.

Two of the grandsons of the late Helen Stein Shack also spoke at the ceremony. Regan Kelly flew all the way from California for the event. Tamir Taylor grew up in Three Village and attended Murphy Jr. High School and Ward Melville High School.  

“A lot of people thank us a lot for creating this event,” mentioned Taylor. “But we really want to thank you guys because our grandmother, mother, was really important to us and by you guys participating and making this event happen and the library for making this happen, you guys give us the opportunity to remember and honor her, which is really special to us.”

The Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award brings together a large part of the Three Village community — the library, school district, local elected officials, teenagers and their families and all of the children that read these books. As Hahn remarked, “What a great way to encourage teenagers to think about … what’s important to them and how to express that in a way that will resonate with children.”  

 

Library Job Fair

South Huntington Public Library, 145 Pidgeon Hill Road, Huntington Station will host a Job Fair on Wednesday, April 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Presented by the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center, the event will feature representatives from over 30 companies including Aflac, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Bachrach Group, Better Business Bureau, BrightStar Care, CAM Employment, Canon USA, Catholic Charities, Catholic Guardian, Combined Insurance, Developmental Disabilities Institute, Family First Home Companions, First In Service Staffing, Gutter Helmet, Hellen Keller Services for the Blind, Home Care Solutions, Home Depot, L & S Packing, Lowe’s, NRL Strategies, NY Life Insurance, NY State Troopers, Options for Community Living, Preferred Homecare, Prudential, Right At Home, SCOPE, Suffolk County Civil Service, Suffolk County Water Authority, Sight MD, Spellman High Voltage, Stony Brook University, Sysco, US Nonwovens and Voltpay.

All are welcome and no registration is required. Bring copies of your resume and dress to impress! Questions? Call 631-549-4411.

The Comsewogue library budget passed April 10. File photo

Port Jefferson-area residents have weighed in on how their public libraries spend money.

The public voted to pass operating budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year for Port Jefferson Free Library and Comsewogue Public Library April 10. Port Jefferson School District residents passed the PJFL budget with 139 voting in favor and 17 opposed. Comsewogue district taxpayers approved their library’s 2018-19 spending plan 98-12.

Port Jefferson Free Library

PJFL voters approved a spending plan with modest increases from the 2017-18 fiscal year. The total budget for the upcoming year will be $4,419,062, up less than $200,000 compared to the current year. According to the library’s informational newsletter on the budget sent to residents’ homes, the increase will cost taxpayers roughly 87 cents more per month on average compared to this year. About $60,000 additional dollars for operating expenses will come from property taxes, bringing the total tax levy to $3,099,391.

“Once again, we are honored to have such support from our community,” PJFL Director Tom Donlon said in an email.

The Port Jefferson Free Library is at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets. File photo

The library is currently in the process of purchasing Kanopy, a streaming video service featuring documentaries, classic films, “blockbuster movies” and more, according to the newsletter, in addition to ongoing renovation plans.

Comsewogue Public Library

CPL needs about $165,000 more in 2018-19 to cover operating expenses compared to this fiscal year. The total budget is $5,720,785, with taxpayers being asked to contribute about $7 more on average annually on top of their existing tax bill.

“We work hard all year to earn the public’s approval and support,” CPL Director Debbie Engelhardt said in an email. “We’re constantly collecting, discussing and putting into play comments and ideas from library members of all ages. Feedback from the community helps us continually move the library’s service program forward. The public’s steadfast support of the operating budget means we can keep learning and growing together. We can introduce new collections and services while maintaining popular, more traditional ones. This operating budget assures we can continue to give people what they want from their public library.”

Kevin Spence, CPL’s incumbent president on the board of trustees, was elected to a new five-year term. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board about three years ago, according to thelibrary’s website. The 56-year Port Jefferson Station resident ran unopposed.

The children's section of the Port Jefferson Free Library. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson-area residents are scheduled to weigh in on how its public libraries spend money.

The public vote on operating budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year at Port Jefferson Free Library and Comsewogue Public Library is April 10. Port Jefferson School District residents can vote on the PJFL budget at the library, located at 100 Thompson Street, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Comsewogue School District residents can cast ballots on the library’s grounds, 170 Terryville Road, from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Port Jefferson Free Library

PJFL is asking voters to approve a spending plan with modest increases from the 2017-18 fiscal year. If passed, the total budget for the upcoming year would be $4,419,062, up less than $200,000 compared to the current year. According to the library’s informational newsletter on the budget sent to resident’s homes, the increase would cost taxpayers roughly 87 cents more per month on average compared to this year. About $60,000 additional dollars for operating expenses would come from property taxes, bringing the total tax levy to $3,099,391.

The Comsewogue library budget is up for a vote tomorrow. File photo

“For pennies more a week, you can ensure the library will continue to be a vital contributor to the village’s quality of life,” the budget mailer reads, asking residents to vote “yes.”

The library is currently in the process of purchasing Kanopy, a streaming video service featuring documentaries, classic films, “blockbuster movies,” and more, according to the newsletter, in addition to ongoing renovation plans.

Comsewogue Public Library

CPL needs about $165,000 more in 2018-19 to cover operating expenses compared to this fiscal year. The total budget, if passed, would be $5,720,785, with taxpayers being asked to contribute about $7 more on average annually on top of their existing tax bill.

“The 2018-19 proposed operating budget is designed to ensure that the library continues to provide a high-quality service program at a reasonable cost,” Comsewogue’s budget brochure said.

Kevin Spence, CPL’s current president on the board of trustees, is up for re-election to a new five-year term. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board about three years ago, according to the library’s website. The 56-year Port Jefferson Station resident is running unopposed.

The Briarcliff building at 18 Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, was formerly the Briarcliff Elementary School until it closed in 2014. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Some residents see it as a magical place full of rich history and memories that deserves preservation, others consider it a tax burden that should be sold and disposed of. The future of Briarcliff Elementary School, a shuttered, early-20th century building on Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, is currently up in the air as the school district looks to community members to weigh in on potential options.

A dozen voices were heard Jan. 9 during a public forum held by Shoreham-Wading River’s board of education to decide the fate of the beloved historic school, which has sat vacant for the last three years. The nearly 27,000-square-foot manor was built in 1907, expanded on through 2007 and closed permanently in 2014 as part of the district’s restructuring plan.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, pleads his case to the board as to why it should preserve the school building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Administrators made it clear during the meeting that the board has no plans for the property at this time and, due to declining enrollment throughout the district, does not foresee it will be used for instructional use anytime soon — be it a pre-K or BOCES program. Board members said it will determine the best course of action for the building based on input from the community in the coming months.

“The board will not be making any decisions tonight on the future of the Briarcliff elementary school building, we’re only listening to residential statements,” said board president Robert Rose. “We recognize the importance of input from the entire community.”

This year, the annual operating costs for the property are estimated to total $95,000, which are expensed through the district’s general fund and includes building and equipment maintenance; insurance; and utilities, according to Glen Arcuri, assistant superintendent for finances and operations.

A presentation of the pricey upkeep didn’t dissuade several residents from speaking passionately about the school’s place in the history of Shoreham, pleading with the board to neither sell nor redevelop it for condominiums, as one speaker suggested.

“It was such a wonderful place — the children loved the building,” said Bob Korchma, who taught at Briarcliff for a number of years. “To lose such a great part of our community for housing and any other endeavors would be crazy. It has such history and working there was one of the best parts of my life.”

Debbie Lutjen, a physical education teacher at the school for 10 years, echoed the sentiments, calling the building “special,” and encouraged the board to move the two-floor North Shore Public Library that is currently attached to the high school to Briarcliff.

“If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

—Colette Grosso

“The majority of my teaching career in the district was at the high school, and when they put the public library there, I believe it created several security problems where the general public was on school grounds during the school day,” Lutjen said, suggesting that the freed up space at the high school could be used for classrooms, a larger cafeteria, a fitness center and testing rooms.

Residents also pushed the idea to designate the building a historic landmark and pursue grants, potentially from U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), to restore it. David Kuck, whose son went to Briarcliff, said on top of making it a historic site, the district should turn it into a STEM center for students across Suffolk County, as it stands in the shadow of inventor Nikola Tesla’s famous Wardenclyffe Tower.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, outlined the building’s history for the board — three generations of the prominent Upham family, including a veteran of the Civil War, built and owned the school in three different phases — and urged that covenants be filed on the property that says the building could never be taken down.

“The exterior must be kept in its historic state,” Madigan said. “It’s a very valuable and historical asset for our village. And it’s the most important thing to preserve as a resident.”

Joan Jacobs, a Shoreham resident for 40 years and former teacher, explained to the board how the building was the model for the mansion in the “Madeline” children’s books by Ludwig Bemelmans, who worked at a tavern on Woodville Road.

Joan Jacobs gets emotional talking about her connection and history with Shoreham’s Briarcliff Elementary School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s so rich and having taught there for 14 years, having a daughter go through there, there’s an awful lot there,” an emotional Jacobs said. “It’s a shame to throw away our history.”

Both Bob Sweet and Barbara Cohen, members of Shoreham Village, advocated that the school be redeveloped as a residence for seniors in the area.

“I care about this building and sorely miss when the school buses coming up the road to drop the grade schoolers off,” Sweet said. “I admonish you don’t sell the property and explore the notion of turning this into condos for retired village members.”

But Colette Grosso, a special education aide at Miller Avenue School, said she hopes the community works toward a solution where the building remains an asset within the district for educational purposes as opposed to housing.

“All-day daycare and aftercare services could be done there, and there are other organizations besides BOCES that would love to use the facility to serve special education, which is an underserved population,” Grosso said. “If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

Further discussions with community members on Briarcliff will occur at the next board of education meeting Feb. 13 in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m.

From left to right, Thomas Bokinz, Grace Burns, Anthony D’Angio, Alexandria Sanatore and Brett Petralia at the new reading center at Heritage Park. Photo from Grace Burns

READING AL FRESCO

The Heritage Park in Mount Sinai keeps getting better and better. Recently Grace Burns of Girl Scout Troop 004 created a nature-themed reading center directly behind the park’s new Little Free Library for her Gold Award project. “After the park moved the Little Free Library near The Shack, it hadn’t been recognized to it’s full potential,” said the 17-year-old in a recent email. The Mount Sinai High School senior is hopeful the sitting area will spark more interest in reading and hopefully some more visitors to the library.

But that’s not all. According to Burns, the project is still in the works. “I’m currently running a book drive to restock the library and I’m creating signs that will draw more attention to the area. One sign reads, ‘You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book,’ by Dr. Seuss.” “I’m superexcited to be working on this and I’m hoping to establish a Volunteer Reading Program to be up and running in the spring time,” said Burns, adding, “A huge part of this project has come from my love of teaching and reading, as I wish to pursue a career as an English teacher next year in college.”

Heritage Park is located at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Check out the Little Free Library and sit for awhile, courtesy of Grace Burns. And remember, take a book, leave a book. For more information, call 631-509-0882.

Much of the Port Jefferson Station community, and all of the Comsewogue Public Library’s past director’s were on hand Saturday for a day of celebration to commemorate the facility’s golden anniversary.

As part of the event, the library’s community room was dedicated to its first director, Richard Lusak, who served in that position from 1966 to 2002. In its 50-year history, the Comsewogue Public Library has had just three directors. The 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 14 also featured games, a bounce house, farm animals, crafts, giveaways, snacks, face-painting, balloon animals, music, a historical society photo gallery and tour and a new gallery exhibit.

“The program says ‘celebrating our past, present and future,’ so that’s what we’re doing all in one day, with the community,” the third, and current Director Debra Engelhardt said during the event. “We thought of it as a community thank you for the ongoing support that we’ve had since day one, across all three administrations.”

Engelhardt’s predecessor, Brandon Pantorno, who served at the helm of the library from 2003 through 2012 and is a Port Jefferson Station native, is a lifetime member of what they each referred to as the library family, as they all worked in several different capacities in the library’s hierarchy before becoming director.

“I remember when Blockbuster video came into the neighborhood right on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station and people would say ‘videos, they’re going to be the end to libraries,’” he said. “Well, libraries started circulating videos in addition to books, in addition to library coordinated programs, and guess what? Blockbuster video is no longer here, but Comsewogue library and other libraries — the library world — is still stronger than ever. We have evolved; we have very cleverly metamorphosed into different things for so many people.”

Lusak was brought on to lead the library in its infancy in 1966 by its board of trustees at the time. During the summer of 1966, the Comsewogue School District board of education petitioned the community in 1966 to schedule a vote, in which five trustees would be elected and establish a budget of about $68,000. In November 1966, Lusak was hired, and the library’s original grounds were established in a portable classroom at the southern end of Terryville Road, which still exists today. By November 1967, the community overwhelmingly voted in support of funding the building of a 16,000-square-foot facility at 170 Terryville Road, where the library remains today, though it has grown exponentially over the years.

Lusak said he was honored and humbled to have the community meeting room dedicated in his honor.

“I think the community decides whether or not we did a good job,” he said. “I can say this: the community has always been supportive of the library. The board of trustees here has always been dedicated to this institution — totally dedicated.”

The library’s first director tried to sum up what his time at the community institution meant to him.

“The people just love this library for the community, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in being associated with that,” said Lusak, who is still a resident of Port Jefferson. “It made my life a pleasure.”

Lusak’s wife Rosalie also attended the ceremony to celebrate her husband’s lifelong work.

“It was never a job to him, it was just his passion,” she said. “It’s very, very moving that something would be dedicated to him and I’m glad he got to see it.”

The Cumsewogue Historical Society was on hand during the event to share stories of the library’s history. Historical society Vice President Joan Nickeson said the very first library card issued in 1967 was to Thomas E. Terry, the grandson of Edward Terry, who was one of the Terry brothers who founded Terryville.

The Smithtown Library’s approved 2018 budget made by Director Robert Lusak has funds for building upgrades. File photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The Smithtown Library patrons have given their seal of approval to the proposed 2018 plans of library officials while electing a new face to the board.

Voters approved the $14.6 million 2018 Smithtown Library budget, by 798-241 votes, in the Oct. 10 election. Board trustees Louis Frontario and William Zimmerman were re-elected, but newcomer Brianna Baker-Stines edged out incumbent Rudy Zientarksi to take a seat.

“The Smithtown Library thanks the residents of Smithtown who came out in support of their library and we look forward to continuing to serve the reading, informational, cultural and entertainment needs of the community,” Robert Lusak, library director, said.

New trustee Baker-Stines, of Smithtown, works as an accounting assistant and has a master’s degree in business from Stony Brook University, according to her candidate profile on the library’s website. She previously worked as a reference clerk for the Hauppauge Public Library from 2012 to 2017.

Prior to being elected, Baker-Stines stated her goals were to promote and maintain the brand of the library, increase residents’ usage of the library and improve funding through advocacy.

Smithtown Library Director Robert Lusak. File photo from Dave Berner

“Libraries are currently changing in their meaning to communities,” she wrote in her candidate profile. “Instead of just being houses full of books, they are places to meet people and create things.”

The library’s 2018 budget has funding set aside to increase the number of hours at its four branches, increase programming, and maintain and improve its current facilities, according to Lusak.

More than $10.7 million of the library’s annual budget is set aside to cover employees’ salaries and benefits, with the approved budget containing a $150,000 increase over 2017.

Additional staffing will be required next year if a new pilot program offering extended hours on Friday nights continues to be successful, according to Lusak. Since Labor Day, the Smithtown branch has stayed open an additional three hours on Fridays, pushing back its closing time from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Based on patrons’ response, Lusak said he is leaning toward making a recommendation to library board trustees that all the other three branches — Commack, Kings Park and Nesconset — should stay open Friday nights starting in 2018.

The approved budget includes an additional $68,000 funding increase, for a total of $344,000, toward equipment and capital outlays. The funds will go toward ensuring updated computers and technological equipment is available at the library, according to treasurer Joanne Grove.

To better serve guests, Lusak said the 2018 budget contains funds for upgraded lighting and improved parking at the library’s four branches. The district also hopes to purchase a new generator as part of its emergency response plan.

The 2018 budget will result in a $6.40 increase, or $313.47 per year, for a homeowner with an assessed property value of $5,500. Residents looking to calculate library taxes on their home should divide their assessed value by $1,000, take the resulting number and multiply it by 56.994. Further video instructions can be found on the library district’s website at www.smithlib.org.

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