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Libraries

A child takes part in Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Public Library

Believe it or not, people still read books.

Despite the doom and gloom and often-reiterated refrain that young people today are illiterate, the world and its modern technology has not managed to cripple the long-standing literary institution: the local library. Libraries survive by the manic activity of their employees and the attention of patrons.

But it’s no longer just physical copies. E-books, available on tablets and phones, have become a mainstay in the way people read. People at libraries can rent tablets preloaded with several books. For people on the move, a tablet can be much easier to carry than a stack of 10 books each averaging at 300 pages and weighing a few pounds.

Clearly, it won’t be its patrons that ruin libraries for everyone, but the book publishers themselves.

Macmillan Publishers, one of the top five biggest publishing houses in the U.S., announced its intent to soon limit the number of copies of its published books to one per library for the first eight weeks.

While that seems like the corporation is cutting off its nose to spite its face, for Suffolk County’s library system, which handles all of the area’s e-book rentals, it means patrons will have access to one single copy countywide for rent.

Think about who uses a library. The highest levels of patronage are enjoyed by people living in the North Shore communities, according to Kevin Verbesey, the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. While there are plenty of people who use the library for its many events and other activities, many others use the system to gain insights on world events and better themselves as they enjoy free access to computers and books. They find solace during an escape into literature.

It seems cynical, ludicrous and downright greedy on the part of the publisher to limit access. It suggests the current library system, which has existed for more than a century, is now, all of a sudden, cutting into publisher’s profits. Meanwhile there is good evidence to suggest libraries help create buzz and interest for the publisher’s books. Data from the Library Journal suggests many readers will go out and purchase the same book they borrowed from a library, and even more buy a book by the same author as one they borrowed from the library.

The library system exists and is as natural as the written word itself.

Librarians across the country look at the publisher’s actions and condemn them, but their voices are drowned out by the scale of the overall operation.

While Macmillan may assume people will simply go out and buy the book instead of getting it from the library, this hurts all those who cannot afford a new book, in electronic or physical form. Even worse, other publishers will potentially copy what Macmillan has done, severely limiting access for patrons to their electronic literature.

Libraries are the backbone of culture in a community. We ask all North Shore residents show support for their local library. Start a petition. Other publishers are waiting in the wings to see what happens. Letting Macmillan’s model become the norm will only harm the collective good.

The newly renovated Commack Public Library's children area is brightly lit with LED lighting. Photo by Ola Wilk/Wilk Marketing Communications

Commack residents may have to look twice to find the sleek and modern entrance of the newly renovated Commack Public Library. Hint, there’s a brand new entrance.

The Commack Public Library celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 6 after completing a $8.5 million renovation and expansion. The Hauppauge Road building was aged and out-of-date with state safety codes, according to its Director Laurie Rosenthal, as it had not undergone any significant upgrades since its construction in 1976.

Rosenthal, the library’s director for more than 15 years, said “I’m really excited to be home … this library is like a second home to me and many of our patrons.”

The Commack Public LIbrary celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 2. Photo fromWilk Marketing Communications.

The newly renovated building was designed by Beatty Harvey Coco (BHC) Architects of Hauppauge to be more consistent with the modern technological era and more community friendly by providing more space for programs.

“In the beginning of the design phase, the library’s leadership defined the functional requirements for the renovation, which included expanding the dedicated spaces for children and young adults, enlarging event and community facilities, specifying more comfortable furniture, improving telecommunications and audiovisual technology, and increasing the visibility of the building’s main entrance,” said Christopher Sepp, a senior associate for BHC. “These requirements reflected the new role of the library as a community and social center for residents.”

The main entrance of the library was moved from the intersection of Commack Road and Hauppauge Road to the side of the building facing the parking lot to make the building more accessible and safer for visitors.

The former community room was expanded from 1,203 to 1,735 square feet in order to accommodate more patrons into its programs, the library director said. In addition, a new audiovisual system and movable curtain wall partition was installed to allow more than one program to be held at a time.

What Rosenthal likes to call the “coffee cup,” a brightly LED-lit entrance to the new children’s section, features soft furniture with lounge seating, train and brick play stations and colored LED lighting strips radiating out from the central ceiling that change colors based on themes and events. The library director said new iPads in protective cases will be available to allow
children to interact with technology as well as a sensory area, or quiet low-lighting room specifically designed for children with sensory and auditory needs.

The entrance to the Commack Public LIbrary was relocated and given a facelift during the $8.5 million building renovation. Photo from Wilk Marketing Communications

Young adults have been given a 620-square-foot space off the main floor of the library which features age-appropriate reading, its own computer terminals and a booth like seating area with television and comfortable chairs where teens are invited to do homework or relax.

Throughout the library, there are varied tables, and study areas have their own built-in electrical units with Wi-Fi connections possible to allow residents to come in, sit down and connect anywhere, Rosenthal said.

In addition to the extensive redesign of the building, Islandia-based general contractor Stalco Construction made sure it was more energy efficient.

“All of the work was done with the use of sustainable and energy-efficient systems and materials to significantly improve the building’s operational efficiency, save money for years to come, and prevent the release of volatile organic compounds that could impact indoor air quality,” said Jason Vasquez, Stalco’s project manager.

The rebuild included installation of a new high-efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system and LED lighting fixtures throughout the library to reduce energy for lighting to one-third its prior rate. Other features include a new elevator for handicapped accessibility and fire sprinklers to bring it into compliance with state fire codes.

All Commack residents, regardless of township, are invited to come in to see or tour the library, Rosenthal said. Any Suffolk County resident with a library card can check out materials, she said, with some exceptions, as high-demand items are only for library district taxpayers.

Three decades later and Middle Country sign language club is thriving

The Middle Country Public Library’s Flashing Fingers club following a performance at Brookhaven Town Hall last month. Photo from Kristin Shankles

For four years, Molloy University senior and music therapy major Anna Delgado, of Selden, fought to make American Sign Language a course that fulfills the university’s language requirement. Now, ASL is offered at her university. But that may not have been the case without her experience with the Middle Country Public Library’s Flashing Fingers and sign language programs.

Delgado, followed by her younger sister, Calli, joined the library’s sign language programs in second grade and advanced to the Flashing Fingers club, which Jennie Sardone created more than three decades ago.

Thirty-three years ago, Sardone entered the Middle Country Public Library and inquired about starting sign language programs there. Today, Sardone’s sign language programs are still thriving.

“We started with only a few children, really seven, and over the last 33 years, we’ve had hundreds of children,” Sardone said.

Mary McLaughlin, Youth Services librarian, said thousands of children went through the programs. McLaughlin, who handles booking events for Flashing Fingers, also said kids must finish Sign Language One, Two and Three before advancing to the Flashing Fingers group.

“In the beginning, the children learn signs, they learn to communicate with deaf adults or other people who are learning sign language,” Sardone said. “So we’ll start easy, with colors, emotions, animals, family, numbers, the alphabet, things like that.”

Sign Language One, Two and Three are held in the fall, winter and spring, during the school year, alongside Flashing Fingers. Once a child registers for the sign language courses, they only need to sign up for the Flashing Fingers club.

McLaughlin said the group performs at around three big events each year, in addition to smaller performances for parents. Tracy LaStella, coordinator of Youth Services at the library, said organizations also request the group to perform at various events.

On Thursday July 16, the group performed at a Town of Brookhaven meeting and had local politicians moving to the music. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and members of the town council awarded the group its own day. Now, July 16 is Middle Country Flashing Fingers Club Day in the Town of Brookhaven.

The Flashing Fingers club performs a song. Photo from Tracy LaStella/Middle Country Public Library
The Flashing Fingers club performs a song. Photo from Tracy LaStella/Middle Country Public Library

The group sang, signed and danced to a variety of new and old songs that followed last academic year’s “happy” theme. Previous themes include disco and Disney.

Around two years ago, the club performed “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was one of Alexandria Gibaldi’s favorite performances. Gibaldi, of Centereach, who is going into her junior year in high school, started the sign language programs as a second-grader. She said “Fiddler on the Roof” was the first play the group performed.

According to LaStella, Sardone and McLaughlin, around 25 of nearly one hundred children in the program attend performances and Gibaldi is always one of the 25.

“I have a lot of stuff going on, but I usually make time for it because I know it’s important,” Gibaldi said. “I know it’s for Ms. Jennie and for the program. So I want to make sure I look good for the library and so I make sure I go.”

The group also performs at Veterans and nursing homes. Gibaldi said giving back to the community by performing for these individuals is one of the reasons she enjoys Flashing Fingers, as seeing people happy also makes her happy.

Jacqueline Schmitt, of Holtsville, is another Flashing Fingers member. She joined the club in the middle of last academic year. In addition to learning sign language, participants can meet kids from several local elementary, middle and high schools.

Thus far, the club’s end of year performance in May was Schmitt’s favorite. The end of year performance let club members show off what they have learned. Twelfth-grade students perform a song of their choice as a way to say goodbye to the club and its instructors at the end of the year.

Since Sardone teaches all children going through the sign language programs, the end of year performance is bittersweet.

“When they are seniors, we … cry,” Sardone said about herself, McLaughlin and LaStella. “We’ve been together for so long and … I’m happy they’re moving on, but I miss them.”

Anna Delgado remembers performing Carrie Underwood’s “Ever Ever After” from the “Enchanted” soundtrack for her final performance as a Flashing Fingers member. She was determined to learn and perform the song on her own.

Calli Delgado, who is entering seventh grade, has yet to perform a solo at the end of year performance, but like her sister, she used what she learned outside the club at school functions and talent shows.

“It was weird because a lot of people didn’t know what I was doing,” Delgado said about her first experience signing for a school event. She also signed at her school’s talent show. With the help of Sardone, Delgado performed her first solo of “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole at a school talent show. Although she doesn’t know if the club has influenced her plans for her future, she loves the program and mentoring younger members.

Anna Delgado said she credits the Flashing Fingers club and her love for ASL to Sardone.

“This kick-started my love for American Sign Language,” she said. “It changed my life; it changed my passion; it changed the direction I wanted to go in my life.”

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This year’s superhero summer reading theme has elementary to high school students frequenting libraries. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Summertime usually means barbeques, sunbathing, sleeping in and packing in as much fun as possible before the beginning of another academic year. But one thing is missing from that list — reading — and it’s at the top of the list for youth departments in local libraries that encourage kids to pig out on books before going back to school in the fall.

And what better way to encourage kids to read than with superheroes? Local Long Island libraries’ summer reading lists for kids and young adults bring superheroes to the foreground with their series of hero-related books for elementary school to high school children.

Brian Debus, head of the Children’s Department at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, said the younger kids favored these graphic novel superhero books the most. Of the nearly 70,000 books in the Children’s Department, the aisles for these books and books for beginner readers are nearly barren, according to Debus.

“By the middle of the summer at least all of them have been checked out at least once,” Debus said. Children receive weekly prizes after reading the books they log out. Although the theme is superheroes, kids can log  out other books as well. According to Debus, from June 22 to July 10, children had logged out 3,674 books.

Fantasy books aren’t only flying off the shelves at Emma Clark Memorial Library. According to Katherine “Kathy” Kalin, department head of Young Adult Services at North Shore Public Library, science fiction and fantasy books are a hit among elementary, middle and high school youths.

The library’s Battle of the Books program is one of its summer reading programs for sixth- to eighth-grade students. But ninth- to 12th-grade students who aged out of this program can still keep up with their summer reading in the Battle Bistro summer reading program at the North Shore Public Library.

Battle Bistro participants read three books: “Half Brother” by Kenneth Oppel, “The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson and “The Rules of Survival” by Nancy Werlin. According to Kalin, who has read all the books for both reading programs, teens across Long Island and the country can also register for an online reading club, Unmask!, which allows them to “unmask the superhero in you.”

Unmask! club members are not limited to stories about Superman swooping in to save the day, as the hero in their story can be as simple as a strong female character.

“It’s things that kids can relate to in their lives.” Kalin said. Teens in this reading club must answer a question to show they read the book. According to Kalin, this year the question encourages kids to delve into the storyline and examine if they could relate the book to an experience in their lives.

Teens can register for this club and track their reading progress and receive a prize for every two hours of reading.

Huntington Public Library also rewards its reading club participants. Laura Giuliani, department head of Youth and Parent Services, said more students are using suggested reading lists provided by their schools.

Picture books are popular among preschoolers. “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio and “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher are popular with teens and deal with ideas of self-acceptance and suicide, respectively.

While Giuliani doesn’t know why these two books are a hit among teens, she said it’s possible the kids reading these books can relate to the storyline in some way. But regardless of the genre of book or the types of prizes, these libraries want one thing: to encourage kids and adults alike to keep reading and avoid the summer slide.

“It maintains their reading skills throughout the summer so that they [don’t] … lose those skills that they learned,” Kalin said.

Giuliani agreed saying, “If kids don’t get any reading in, they kind of fall out of the loop. It keeps the reading comprehension … and vocabulary [up].”

Most importantly, reading is just a simple fun and relaxing way to get lost in a different reality before preparing for another school year.

Port Jefferson Free Library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro and Library Director Robert Goykin present the findings of the library’s strategic plan to more than 40 community leaders on Wednesday. Photo from Robert Goykin

Port Jefferson Free Library is checking out architects as it moves toward expanding its facilities, officials announced on Wednesday at a breakfast meeting with community members.

At the meeting, library staffers updated a few dozen neighborhood leaders on the library’s strategic plan, which its board of trustees recently finalized and includes ideas of how the institution will serve residents in the future. Those plans involve branching out to two properties adjacent to its central building at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets: a residence on Thompson that it has acquired and a business on East Main that it is in the process of acquiring. The goal of expansion is to bring the Teen Center, which is now housed in a separate building across East Main, into the main building.

And an “inadequacy of library meeting space, in addition to parking challenges, were prime considerations,” library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro said in a statement.

The library is looking to hire an architectural firm that will consider the area’s historical character while designing the potential expansion, Library Director Robert Goykin said in a phone interview Thursday. “The library board is extremely committed to preserving the historic streetscape and the historic nature of this corner of the town.”

Once the board hires an architect, there will be public meetings to get community feedback and suggestions during the design process.

“We want to keep the public informed and aware every step of the way,” Goykin said.

According to a press release from the library, the adjacent property on East Main Street, which currently houses Scented Cottage Garden, measures 7,750 square feet.

Marge McCuen and Mary Lee, who co-own the property with their husbands, John McCuen and Roger Lee, said while the sale of the property is not final, the business will be closing on May 31.

The library director said the property would help the space-strapped library meet village parking requirements while satisfying the library’s needs.

Goykin said the meeting Wednesday at the library was positive, as the community offered supportive comments “and really showed how much the public appreciates the library here in Port Jeff.” He said it’s a good sign for the future, in terms of receiving community input on the design of the facility expansion.

“To see this diverse group of people seemingly in agreement … is a good start.”

This version corrects information about the sale of the Scented Cottage Garden property.

Standing in front of Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) at Port Jefferson Free Library's tea party are, from left, Linda Gavin; Earlene O’Hare; Carol Stalzer; Shirley Weiner; Stephanie Costanzo; Lucio Constanzo; Francesca Lutz; and Deborah O’Neil. Photo by Heidi Sutton

In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary novel “The Great Gatsby,” the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library held a Gatsby Tea Party fundraiser on Wednesday, April 29.

Guests enjoyed a wonderful lunch and dessert and sipped tea from their favorite teacups. Shirley Weiner presented a lecture on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his literary works which was followed by a raffle drawing.

The Port Jefferson Historical Society loaned a period costume exhibit, featuring a flapper dress, a man’s tuxedo and a bridal trousseau, for the occasion.

Proceeds from the event will be used to fund projects at the library such as its Living Heritage programs, Dickens Festival events, music programs, Baby Book Welcome Bags, Vets Memorial Project, family carnival and more.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library shows off its new gear. Photo from Robert Caroppoli

Setauket’s own Emma S. Clark Memorial Library made the most of $10,000 in state funding and is now celebrating a new state-of-the-art technology center.

Three new 55-inch smart televisions were only the beginning of the new technological enhancements made at the library this month, thanks to $10,000 in state funding from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), which helped offset the cost of the refurbished center. It took a lot of work, but the library made sure to employ all the painting and wiring from in-house library employees in order to get the most out of the money.

“We are grateful to Sen. Flanagan for this generous award, which will help enhance the lives of our patrons, young and old,” said Ted Gutmann, library director. “Thanks to Sen. Flanagan and New York state, this new facility ensures that Emma Clark Library continues to offer its patrons the latest in technology, keeping it a modern library for today’s fast-paced world within its charming façade.”

Moving forward, Gutmann said the technology center will offer classes to the public on a wide variety of subjects, including those for beginners and others for more advanced learners. With this new software, the library will add to its existing selection of classes for teens by offering online video creation and editing.

Flanagan visited the library last week to meet with Gutmann and its employees to tour the new equipment and share in the success.

“The staff and leadership of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has utilized this state funding to create a learning center that will enhance the lives of so many in the community. This new technology center has many different applications for young and old and is a great addition to this already impressive facility,” Flanagan said. “I am happy that we were able to work together for the benefit of the patrons.”

Among the equipment purchased as a result of the grant were three Vizio 55-inch wall-mounted smart televisions, which have the ability to mirror the display of the instructor’s machine, Apple TV and any other HDMI-capable hardware. This technology will allow participants to follow along with an instructor during any class. Each television is also equipped with a floor level HDMI port for easy access to gaming systems or other external input devices.

The Technology Center will also house 10 Dell computers with 23-inch LCD monitors, which are wall-mounted to allow for a clean appearance and functionality. These computers are designed in a way that enhances learning because they are fast, reliable and equipped with some of the latest technology available, including Intel i5 processors, 8GB of memory, and wireless keyboards and mouses, the library said.

The library also received a brand new Macbook Pro with an Intel i7 processor and 16GB of memory, which operates on Mac OSX Yosemite. The Macbook also has Microsoft Office 2014 and Final Cut Pro, which allows for video and photo editing.

All classes held in the Technology Center can be found in the printed newsletter or online at  /newsletters.

The library already offers adult classes on a broad range of topics, such as the Internet, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Facebook, Pinterest, smartphones and tablets. Children and teen programs include Minecraft and Wii U. Also offered are workshops and drop-in tech assistance for help with mobile devices in a small, personal setting.

The library even offers a Teen Tech Clinic on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, where teens volunteer to assist adults with their computers and mobile devices.

The Huntington library is packed with people reading, studying and doing other work. File photo

Voters in the Huntington Public Library district overwhelmingly approved an $8.9 million budget for next year that stays within a state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

Residents also elected a new library trustee, Pat McKenna Bausch, knocking eight-year incumbent Harriet Spitzer off the board.

In total, 423 voted in favor of the budget and 88 voted against it, according to library director Joanne Adam.

“I feel wonderful,” Adam said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Of course, I’m happy that it passed. I think what makes me even more happy is the amount that it passed by.”

Bausch was the top vote-getter in a contest of three vying for one seat. Candidate Yvette Stone earned 53 votes and incumbent Spitzer amassed 174 votes.

Looking forward, Adam is most excited about renovations at the library’s Main Street branch, which include reconfiguring some spaces and updating the building’s lighting, heating and ventilation.

“Redoing the space, I think, will kind of just give us a nice facelift.”

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Board member Pam DeFord pushes for the implementation of another full-time librarian. Photo by Barbara Donlon

After incorporating all but one wish list item in its 2015-2016 budget, some Kings Park board of education members insisted on raising the tax cap to add a full-time librarian position.

On Tuesday, the district presented its last budget presentation, which included a tax levy of 2 percent — lower than the maximum 2.27 allowed by the state. The district was able to keep the levy low and still add all the items it wanted, except a librarian that would split time between both Park View Elementary School and Fort Salonga Elementary School.

“So on the wish list, the only thing we didn’t do was the librarian for Fort Salonga and Park View,” board trustee Diane Nally asked. “If we had gone to the 2.27 and we did do the librarian, would there be additional monies also in there to go towards the applied fund balance?”

The district’s superintendent, Timothy Eagen, addressed Nally’s question and said increasing the levy to 2.27 percent would leave the district with roughly $170,000 that could potentially pick up the last wish-listed item.

Increasing the tax levy to 2.27 percent would cost the average homeowner $22 per year, which is something board members Diane Nally and Pam DeFord were advocating.

“I am disappointed that the librarian to be split between Park View and Fort Salonga is not included in the budget because I do think that is important,” Nally said.

During the discussion, board trustee Pam DeFord spoke about a staff member being hired to fulfill an unfunded mandate from the state and said if the district did not have the mandate, the librarian position could have been fulfilled.

DeFord pushed to allow the tax levy to increase to 2.27 percent; she feels since the state is allowing it, the district should take full advantage of it.

“By going up to the 2.27, which is well below what budgets have passed historically here in Kings Park, we could possibly bring back a full-time librarian,” DeFord said. “Now is the chance to restore, start to restore what our kids have been missing for so long.”

Board President Tom Locascio and Vice President Charlie Leo said they felt uncomfortable maxing the allowable tax levy. Leo mentioned that the district originally projected a 1.71 percent increase and raising it to 2 percent was enough of an increase.

“One of my concerns is we have put forth a budget where we were always talking 1.71, and I think the community kind of started to get a nice feel the budget was going to be 1.71,” Leo said. “I don’t want to hire a librarian, then have to reduce a librarian.”

According to Eagen, the district has a contingent position in the budget in the event that kindergarten registration is higher than normal. If the registration is lower and the position is not needed, there is a chance the position could go toward a librarian.

“We could absolutely take that contingent position and dedicate it to the librarian,” Eagen said.

Parent Bill Claps addressed the board in support of adding a librarian and said he feels the school needs one. He said he is embarrassed that the district can’t offer a librarian to its students.

“You’ve all had librarians in your school, so why can we not afford that for our children,” Claps said. “I don’t want to pay taxes anymore than anyone else does, but we have to bring the district back to certain standards.”

Chris Philip, president of the Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association, also took to the board in favor of a librarian.

“It’s really incomprehensible under the common core rigor that we don’t have one [a librarian] in every school,” Philip said.

Philip said librarians do more than fund books and it’s crucial for their education that students have access to a librarian.

As of Wednesday, no decision had been made on whether the district will go to the 2.27 tax levy to add a librarian.

A view of the ‘I Matter’ art project at Northport Public Library. Photo from Dina Rescott

A local group that empowers children through character education and art is hosting a celebration and fundraiser event on April 30, where the public can come and see what it is all about.

Around 90 Commack, Huntington and Northport youth who participated in the “I Matter” art and character education project that was featured at local libraries in the past year will be honored at the John W. Engeman Theater at 6 p.m. prior to a performance of “A Chorus Line” at 8 p.m.

The “I Matter” project is an education and leadership program founded by the Center for Creative Development based in Huntington. It aims to inspire and empower students to make healthy decisions and steer clear of destructive behavior.

Several presenters from the project are expected to attend the event, including Rob Goldman, the center’s director; New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport); corporate sponsors and more.
The project’s new theme song, “Shine On,” will be debuted by writer and recording artist Alan Semerdjian. Choir members from Huntington schools will be featured on the song.

“It’s really bringing the community together,” Raia said in a statement. “We need to uplift the self-confidence of our teens and this is just the perfect program to do that.”

Participation in the “I Matter” project allows children to take part in a workshop environment where they share thoughts and feelings face-to-face, make photographic portraits of each other and more. The project also prompts public conversation and community involvement to address social issues and drug use.

Tickets for the event can be purchased and donations and sponsorships can be made at the website www.imatterproject.org/donate.html.