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Children of the late Helen Stein Shack (Karen Shack Reid, Barbara Kelly, Edward Taylor and Sherry Cleary) stand with grand prize winners Leah Cussen and Wendy Wahlert and honorable mention winners Samuel Kim, Sarah Jiang, Karen Jiang and Anny Weisenberg. (Not present: honorable mention winner Kiera Alventosa). Photo from Emma S. Clark Library

By Erin Dueñas

As much as she loves reading books, Leah Cussen said it never occurred to her to try writing one. But leafing through the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library newsletter over the winter, Cussen saw an announcement for the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, which called on teens in grades seven through 12 to create a children’s book. “I wrote assignments for school and a few stories on my own, but creating a book was new to me,” Cussen said. “It seemed like a cool challenge.”

Taking inspiration from her 5-year- old brother’s bookshelves, Cussen wrote a book called “Lenny the Lion,” a story about a misfit who can’t roar as well as his brothers. Lenny sets out in the jungle looking for a family to fit in with. When he can’t swing from tree to tree like a monkey and reach the top leaves of a tree like a giraffe, Lenny realizes that he belongs with his lion family. “I liked the theme of being true to yourself,” Cussen said. “He realizes that his family loves him no matter what.”

“Lenny the Lion” won the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, along with the story “Lilabet” written by 17-yearold Wendy Wahlert. “Lilabet” is a story about a colorful young girl who lives in a “black, white and blah” world. Lilabet spreads her color around to change the town. Wahlert said that she got the idea for “Lilabet” based on her own thoughts about living in the suburbs, which she called black and white. “‘Lilabet’ is kind of how I feel. I’m the colorful person in the suburbs where every house is the same as the next,” she said. “There’s a reflection of myself in the story.”

Wahlert said she is more of an artist than a writer, illustrating “Lilabet” with large sweeping swaths of color inspired by paintings she saw at a coffee shop in New York City. “I like pop art, conceptual art,” she said. “I like a graphic and bold style with a flow of simple shapes. I tried to do that and I guess it worked,” she said of her story.

Chosen winners from a dozen entries, both girls received a $500 scholarship and read their books to a roomful of children at an awards reception on April 26. The library printed and bound a copy of each story to be included in its “Local Focus” collection. Both stories will also be turned into e-books. Honorable mention winners included Samuel Kim for his book “Freddy the Fish and the First Day of School,” Anny Weisenberg for “Red Boots for Rainy Days,” Kiera Alventosa for “Heal Our Mother Earth” and sisters Sarah and Karen Jiang for “Pengy Goes on an Adventure.”

This is the first year for the Helen Stein Shack award, according to Shack’s daughter Sherry Cleary, who said that her mother would volunteer to read to kids and teach them to read in her spare time. “My mother loved this library. She would always say to people, ‘You should see my library’ or ‘Let’s go to the library,’” Cleary said. “She used to say if you could read and read for joy, you would have a successful life.”

When Shack passed away more than a year ago, Cleary and her siblings approached the library looking for a way to mark her life and the idea of the book contest came up. “We just wanted to honor her,” she said. “The students in the community rose to the occasion. These are just stunning books.”

Cussen said that winning the contest means a lot. “I want to do writing when I’m older so now I’m thinking what if I could write stories,” she said. “It broadened my ideas for my career in writing.”

Wahlert said being a published author is “pretty awesome.” “It gives me more confidence that people appreciate what I’m doing,” she said.

Library director Ted Gutmann said that all the entries showed great talent and the one word that came to mind in reading the stories was imagination. “Imagination will take you everywhere,” he said. “These kids have the imagination and I hope they never lose it.”

The Huntington Public Library’s Huntington Station branch. File photo

On Tuesday, April 21, voters in the Huntington Public Library district will be asked to approve an $8.9 million budget to fund operations at the Huntington and Huntington Station branches.

The budget is an increase over this year’s spending plan of about $113,000 and will not exceed a state cap on property tax levy increases. The money will go toward library programs, services, materials and increasing Sunday and Friday evening hours to align closely with the school year, the library’s website said.

It will also go toward replacing the heating and cooling units at the Main Street branch in Huntington and installing LED lighting and interior space renovations there, library Director Joanne Adam said.

“I feel pretty good because I feel like we definitely were able to stay within the tax cap,” she said of her first budget with the branch. “I feel like we’re still offering a lot of good programs and services to our patrons while being able to do that.”

Residents will also be asked to vote for library board trustees next week. Three candidates are running for two seats on the board. Incumbent Harriet Spitzer is up for reelection and is running for another term, according to the library’s website. Candidates Yvette K. Stone and Pat McKenna-Bausch are also running for the seat.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, April 21, between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., at the main building

The Northport Public Library. File photo from library

Northport-East Northport Public Library district voters overwhelmingly approved a nearly $10 million budget to fund both Northport and East Northport libraries’ operations in 2015-16.

The voters also elected two trustees —incumbent Georganne White and newcomer Jacqueline Elsas, according to library Director James Olney in a phone interview on Wednesday. Longtime trustee Robert Little, who had sat on the board for 13 years and sought reelection, did not win another term.

In total, 530 people voted in favor of the budget, while 68 people voted “No,” Olney said. “I’m actually very pleased with the figures,” he said. “The 530 is not only great, but we tend to have about 100 ‘No’s each year and I’m happy to see those numbers decline.”

As far as trustees go, White was the top vote getter, amassing 415 votes. She was elected to a five-year term. Elsas received 358 votes and was elected to serve a four-year term, filling the seat of former trustee Patricia Flynn who stepped down early to become a district court judge. Little received 285 votes.

The library’s spending plan translates to an approximately $6.80 increase in taxes for an average library district resident with a home assessed at $4,000. And the proposed budget stays within a New York State-mandated cap on tax levy increases.

Some of the highlights of next year’s budget include increased funding for adult, teen and children programming, $140,000 in capital and technological improvements at both buildings; an uptick in professional fees and a decrease in projected revenues. The tax levy will increase from $9.5 million to $9.6 million, or about 1.46 percent.

Olney said he is happy with the results and the library is now looking ahead to May, when library staff will be hosting a celebration marking 75 years of public library service in East Northport. That celebration, which is open to the public, will take place on Saturday, May 16 at 1:30 p.m. at the East Northport Public Library on Larkfield Road. It will feature games for children, crafts, a pickle booth, historical artifacts and more.

“It will be a nice time,” Olney said.

Library members in Port Jefferson and Comsewogue approved the two districts’ proposed budgets on Tuesday. Stock photo

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson library district members approved both institutions’ 2015-16 budgets on Tuesday. The Port Jefferson Free Library budget passed with 106 votes in favor and nine against. Comsewogue Public Library’s budget passed with 104 votes in favor and 19 against.

The Port Jefferson budget, which totals $4.33 million, will increase annual taxes by about $10.80 for the average village resident. The budget includes a $107,000 transfer to the library’s capital fund for facility improvements, as the library nears the finish line on forming a strategic plan for how the institution will serve members in the future. That plan includes improving the facilities and considers possible uses for an adjacent residential property on Thompson Street that the library recently purchased.

In Comsewogue, annual taxes will increase by about $11 for the average resident under the approved $5.58 million budget.

The Comsewogue district residents also elected a new trustee, Corinne DeStefano, with 116 votes. The candidate, who ran unopposed for a five-year term, is the wife of Comsewogue school board Trustee Robert DeStefano. A lifelong resident of the district, she works in quality assurance for software corporation CA Technologies.

Jillian Warywoda gets in a hug after reading ‘Farm Alarm!’ to Sally at the Sachem Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

By Sue Wahlert

From April 12 to 18, libraries across the nation will be celebrating National Library Week. According to the American Library Association, “It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.” The quality and variety of programming libraries offer communities has grown exponentially and fulfills the needs of all residents, regardless of age. It is one of our most valuable community resources in a time when our communities have become more and more fragmented.

One such program that deserves celebration has literally, “gone to the dogs.” For more than 15 years, various libraries across Suffolk County have been inviting certified therapy dogs into their children’s department to encourage reluctant readers to develop their love of reading. Each participating library has their own unique name for their program, such as “Puppy Pals” or “Book Time with a Dog,” but the purpose is always the same, “We want to build confidence in young readers.  The dog is not going to critique the child as they are reading,” said Brian Debus, Emma S. Clark Library’s Children’s Department Head. It is an opportunity to make reading a fun process and it certainly takes the stress out of reading aloud.

Over the past month, we have visited five Suffolk County libraries and spent time with the dog handlers and children who attend these programs. Each library has their own style, but the formula is the same: take one certified therapy dog, a handler who loves what they do and a kid, place them in a quiet room and watch something magical happen.

Brothers, from left, Liam and Daniel Regan, with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Brothers, from left, Liam and Daniel Regan, with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

This all-volunteer program would not be possible without the dedication of the dog owner/handlers, their dogs and the willingness of the libraries to engage in this type of program.  It is an opportunity to strengthen the love of reading while developing a connection between families and the library that can last a lifetime.

North Shore Public Library, Reading to Mac
On Saturday mornings in the children’s department of the North Shore Public Library you can find the lovable Mac, an 11-year-old black lab nestled against the book cases awaiting young readers to arrive. Jane Broege, Mac’s handler and owner, said that Mac has been listening to readers for three years now, after spending his life as a guide dog. “Dogs feel better if they are doing something,” said Broege. “Dogs were put on this earth to make us happy.” The “Reading to Mac” program does make kids and their families happy while encouraging the love of reading in children.

Recently, readers eight-year-old Daniel Regan and his five-year-old brother Liam came prepared with their books. It was Daniel’s second time with Mac and Liam’s first. Daniel settled in on the cushy beanbag chair and began his story while Mac snuggled up against him. After completing “Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat,” he was able to spend time petting and talking to Mac and Broege. His response to the program, “I love it; it makes me calm!”

Broege echoes the mantra of all programs similar to this one, “The dog is not judgmental and it does not mind what the child reads.” As a reward, Broege gives each reader a blue rubber bracelet with a paw print on it to remind them of their time with Mac. The program runs on Saturday mornings, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. To schedule a 15-minute session with Mac, call North Shore Public Library at 631-929-4488, ext 223.

Sachem Public Library, Book Time with a Dog
Established in 2001, Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Library invites not just one, but four dogs into its Children’s Department program room. You might think that four dogs in one room would encourage mayhem, but it is the complete opposite, calm and quiet. Each of the dogs is certified through an organization called Therapy Dogs International. Their handlers couldn’t be prouder to share their peaceful and obedient dogs with the young readers who come to this once-a-week program.

Children’s Librarian Marybeth Kozikowski has made this program one of her passions. “It is an esteem-building program, not an academic experience,” Kozikowski reflected. Amy Johnston, Head of Children’s Services, said of Kozikowski, “She has helped to make this program a success. She has written and obtained grants to purchase blankets for the dogs to sit on and chairs for the handlers to use during the program.”
Suzanne DiRusso began this program with a dog named Dakota and it continues to be very popular, reaching out to the library’s younger patrons. The goal of Book Time with a Dog is to provide a place for reluctant readers to sit with a dog and read. Because the dog is non-judgmental, it provides a non-threatening environment for readers. “Anytime they [children] want to sit and read, it is a win-win situation,” said Johnston.

Daniel Regan visits with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Daniel Regan visits with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

Sachem’s program is open to children in first to fifth grades with a reservation for a 20-minute session with a dog. Parents can watch through large glass windows as their children get comfortable with an assigned dog.

On this particular evening, 12 readers had reserved spots with the dogs. Handler and dog owner Beverly Killeen accompanied her ten-year-old dog Maureen, a golden retriever. Killeen has been participating in this reading program for six years and has had many other dogs involved in the program as well. “I love children. It is good to see them make progress from year to year,” said Killeen.

Sisters Morgan and Calleigh Quirk were so excited to read to Emma, a greyhound, and Sally, a golden retriever. Their mother Kelly said, “They sit and read to our dogs too!” According to another parent, Sandra Kyranakis, whose son Jake has been attending this program for two years, “It is a wonderful program that has given him confidence. He has struggled with reading. This program has helped him to enjoy it.”

After the story is complete, readers sit and talk with the handlers while petting the dog. Upon leaving, the readers are given a card with the dog’s picture and information on it — a fun way to remember the experience!

Reservations are required for “Book Time with a Dog,” which is held on Thursdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Sachem Library at 631-588-5024 and ask for the Children’s Department.

Emma S. Clark Library, Reading with Angela or Alfie
On a recent Thursday afternoon, dog handler and owner, Fred Dietrich, brought Angela, a  seven-year-old purebred yellow Lab, to the Children’s Department of Emma S. Clark Library. Angela had a special job — to sit, relax and listen to a story. Dietrich said Angela completed an 8 week training program at Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy and had been doing therapy work for over 2 years.

Emma S. Clark’s Library programs “Reading with Angela” and “Reading with Alfie,” began last spring after patrons inquired about a program of this type and the librarians researched journal articles about the benefits of therapy dogs with children.

Today’s half-hour reservation was held by six-year-old Thomas Tunstead, who came equipped with his own book, “The Bravest Dog Ever.” It was his first time reading to a dog. “I love reading to doggies!  If I ever tried to read to my dog, he would eat my book!” he said with a big smile.

Thomas Tunstead reads with Angela at the Emma S. Clark Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Thomas Tunstead reads with Angela at the Emma S. Clark Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

The dog, handler and reader were brought into the colorful program room in the Children’s Department. Angela and Thomas settled in on the floor next to Dietrich who held the leash at all times.  Thomas leaned into Angela’s furry body and got busy reading his story. This was the place to be, as Tunstead read about Balto, the famous dog, to Angela. There were no moans or moments of frustration when he came across a tough word because Thomas knew Angela wouldn’t judge him for not knowing.

After the reading session ended, there was time for Thomas to bond with Angela by giving her treats and building a house for her made of soft blocks. Thomas’s mother Melissa said, “Thomas loves dogs and I want him to read, so this is the perfect match.”

Emma S. Clark Library holds their programs on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. Reservations are required by calling 631-941-4080.

Harborfields Public Library, Tail Waggin’ Tales
At Harborfields Public Library, children can have their parents reserve a spot to read to a dog in their Tail Waggin’ Tales program. Since 2004, the program has brought together the calm creatures and young patrons to read aloud. “An animal is not judgmental and the kids feel that,” said Patricia Moisan, director of Youth and Family Services at the library.

Cutch, a golden retriever, is the dog of the hour. Handler Sue Semple greets the readers and their families who come for a 15 minute sessions.  The program is open to children Kindergarten through third grade and is held on Fridays. Siblings are invited to sit-in on this program, which makes it a family friendly activity.
Moisan spoke of a family’s experience with Tail Waggin’ Tales, “A mother came in and talked about how shy her daughter was, but when the young girl came in to read with the dog, she was not shy at all!” The program is an opportunity for children to become more relaxed with reading. Moisan feels it is a “really safe place” for children to take chances with their reading.  Unlike parents or adults, Cutch does not make any comments about the child’s reading, he just relaxes and listens.

Olivia Cortez reads ‘Click Clack Moo’ to Barbie the therapy dog at Huntington Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Olivia Cortez reads ‘Click Clack Moo’ to Barbie the therapy dog at Huntington Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

The library will be hosting a weekend program in the near future, where the handler or librarian read a story while families interact with a dog. Please refer to their event schedule to find out the exact dates.
Tail Waggin’ Tales happens twice a month on Fridays, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., with four 15-minute reading sessions. If you are interested in reserving time with Cutch, contact Harborfields Library at 631-757-4200.

Huntington Public Library, Puppy Pals
Huntington Public Library holds their Puppy Pals program monthly, alternating between the Main Library on Main Street in Huntington and their branch in Huntington Station, on New York Avenue. The Library invites dogs who are part of Therapy Dogs International’s “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” program each month for a half-hour reading session. Laura Giuliani, head of Youth and Parent Services, said the library has been doing this for the past seven years. “It allows children who may not be confident in reading to sit with a dog and read. All the kids love it!” On the most recent Thursday visit, Ana O’Brien, the handler who organizes the dogs that visit the library, brought her ten-year-old Portuguese water dog, Nina, who was wearing pink bunny ears. “Reading is important. It can be intimidating, and so with our costumes and pets we can make it a little better,” said O’Brien.

Burt Rowley, who brings his six-year-old Vizsla, Maggie, feels it is very helpful for children who are afraid to read. He told the story of a child who has been coming  to the program since 2011, adding “he’s become a very good reader.” All of the handlers are passionate about their dogs and the children who come to read to their companions. Terry Gallogly brought her Labradoodles, Barbie and Ken. “I always believed in the connection between animals and humans,” said Gallogly.

On this particular day, first grader Olivia Cortez brought the book, “Click Clack Moo,” to read to the Barbie. Her mother, Jennifer Cortez, said that Olivia practiced with the book before she came. As Olivia worked her way through the book, she took some time out to smile and pet Barbie while receiving words of encouragement from Gallogly. “I just want to stay here forever!” Olivia exclaimed.

Words such as hers are a testament to how powerful a program such as Puppy Pals is to these youngsters and their families. It’s a feel-good experience that can only encourage continued reading. The Puppy Pals program is held monthly, alternating between library locations, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Call the library at 631-427-5165 for reservations.

The North Shore Public Library. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Budget season is in full swing and the local libraries aren’t excluded. Voters will take to the polls on Tuesday, April 14, to weigh in on proposed spending plans and elections of library trustees.

North Shore Public Library Director Laura Hawrey said in a phone interview that the proposed small increase of 0.9 percent from the current year would allow for additional programs at the library. Language programs, including Spanish, Italian and English, will have additional offerings.

“All of the language programs are very popular,” she said.

In addition, the library will continue to build its multicultural program, which exposes people to music and arts from different cultures.

Following another trend many libraries are experiencing, North Shore will continue to supply readers’ demand for e-books.

“We are increasing the e-books and decreasing the amount of [printed] books,” she said.

But old-fashioned book lovers shouldn’t be worried. Hawrey said books could be easily accessed through interlibrary loan. The loan system has contributed to a decrease in a need to have as many books in-house.
Under the spending plan, an average resident in the Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts will pay an additional $3 annually.

Incumbent library Board of Trustees President Bill Schiavo is running unopposed for his third five-year term. In a phone interview, the retired high school English teacher and Stony Brook University professor said he has always been a book and library lover.

Schiavo said he and his fellow board members have worked to make sure taxpayers are getting some bang for their buck.

“Any increase we have, however minimal, is designed to go [toward] new programs,” he said.

Schiavo said he first ran with the goal of creating an annex library in the Rocky Point area, as the community needs more meeting spaces for residents. While this hasn’t come to fruition just yet due to financial constraints, Schiavo said the whole board is well aware of the need and will continue to look for space.

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File photo by Michael Ruiz

By Jenni Culkin

Adolescents from the Three Village Central School District were asked to use their creative talents to write or illustrate a children’s book to the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the results are in.

They launched the first-ever Helen Stein Shack Book Award to showcase the young writing and artistic talent, calling for teens in the Three Village school district to create a children’s picture book.

In the library-sponsored contest category for grades seven through nine, Leah Cussen won the grand prize with her book, “Lenny the Lion.” The book told the tale of a lonely lion who leaves his family in search of a new one because he feels like he doesn’t belong.

In the end, the lion learns that his family loves him the way he is, despite any differences they might have. Anny Weisenberg and her book, “Red Boots for Rainy Days” as well as Samuel Kim and his book, “Freddy the Fish and the First Day of School” both received honorable mentions.

For grades 10 through 12, Wendy Wahlert and won the grand prize with her book, “Lilabet.” In her book, a little girl who lives in a black and white world has a love for colors. She embraces what makes her unique and shares her color with everyone.

Kiera Alventosa and her book, “Heal Our Mother Earth” as well as Sarah and Karen Jiang and their book, “Pengy Goes on an Adventure” both received honorable mentions.

“We are so incredibly impressed with the high caliber of some of the entries — the vibrant colors of the artwork and the way they wrote with young children in mind,” said Lisa DeVerna of the library. “The two grand prize winners even had wonderful lessons built into their stories.”

The winners will be recognized at a reception on April 26 at 2 p.m. at the library. A $500 scholarship will be awarded to both of the grand prize winners.

All of the winners, including the honorable mention winners, will have their books bound and made into an e-book.

A budget and trustee election will take place at the Northport-East Northport library district on Tuesday, April 14. File photo

Come April 14, residents of the Northport-East Northport library district will be asked to vote on a nearly $10 million budget to fund library operations in 2015-16.

If approved, the spending plan would translate to an approximately $6.80 increase in taxes for an average library district resident with a home assessed at $4,000.

The proposed budget stays within the district’s state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

The Tuesday vote will also give residents the chance to elect two trustees from a pool of three candidates to serve on the board. Candidates include current trustees Robert Little and Georgeanne White, and Northport resident Jacqueline Elsas. All are vying for a five-year term on the board, according to James Olney, the library director.

Next year’s budget proposes increasing funding for adult, teen and children programming by $6,500 due to an increase in program attendance, Olney said on Monday. Program attendance has been up by about 16.7 percent in the last two years, Olney said, and so the additional funds in that line would go towards creating new programming
“We have had such an exciting turnout,” Olney said. “We would like to encourage that trend.”

The proposed budget also includes funding for $140,000 in capital and technological improvements, up from this year’s $50,000 in expenses. It’s also increasing its funding for facilities repairs and improvements, which Olney said was largely due to paying for capital upgrades at the two libraries, which have been aging for about two decades.

Improvements included replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Northport Public Library and improving restrooms and carpeting at various locations in East Northport. Other repairs included replacing new furniture that’s broken over the years and refinishing some tables and countertops “so we can get many more years out of them.”

Professional fees are also up in next year’s budget due to the district having to perform an actuarial study. Retirement and deferred compensations costs are down and total revenues are projected to slide slightly, according to the library’s own budget breakdown.

The district is projecting to increase its tax levy from approximately $9.5 million to $9.6 million, or about a 1.46 percent increase. That stays within the district’s 1.98-percent levy cap, Olney said.

Voting will take place at both the Northport and East Northport libraries. Those who live south of Route 25A would vote at the East Northport Public Library at 185 Larkfield Rd. Those who live north of Route 25A would vote at the Northport Public Library at 151 Laurel Ave.

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

The average Port Jefferson resident will pay $10.80 more in library taxes next year, if members approve a proposed $4.33 million budget for 2015-16.

Most of the Port Jefferson Free Library’s expense lines would increase or decrease modestly under the spending plan, according to a budget breakdown from the library. One of the larger changes would be in materials and programs — the library would spend $42,500 less on books next year, for a total of $178,000. Spending on programs, meanwhile, would increase almost $15,000.

In personnel expenditures, salary and retirement costs would both decrease next year, while insurance costs would increase.

Library Director Robert Goykin explained that the decrease in the book budget “is largely the result of many of the expensive print items moving to less expensive electronic versions or publications going out of business,” such as encyclopedias.

While Goykin called it “sad” that those publications are no longer being printed, he said that many of them work well in a digital format because “people don’t read them cover to cover as much as consult them for facts.”

Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo
Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo

The director said, “In this case the economics work in our favor despite the fact of losing some ‘old friends’ on the shelf.”

The proposed increase in funding for library programs reflects a higher demand, Goykin said, and more programming in science and technology, which can be more expensive than other areas.

In addition to those budget lines, the library would transfer $107,000 into its capital fund for facility improvements.

The library board of trustees has been working on a strategic plan for how the establishment will serve residents in the future, which includes improving the facilities and deciding what to do with a recently purchased residential property that is located next door on Thompson Street.

“With the plan almost concluded,” Goykin said, “the board wanted to set aside some funding to make improvements in the facility.”

All together, the budget would increase less than 0.6 percent next year, and would carry a roughly $3 million tax levy.

If the proposal is approved, for every $100 of assessed value, residents would have to pay an extra quarter to the library next year. The average house in the community is assessed at $4,500.

“The board and the staff have been very mindful of the difficult economic circumstances of the last number of years,” Goykin said. “This is our fifth straight year of minimal budget increases.”

Voting is at the library on Tuesday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Sandy Feinberg has been at the library since 1971. File photo
Sandy Feinberg has been at the library since 1971. File photo

Visitors to the Middle Country Public Library may find it hard to imagine what the library would look like today if Sandra Feinberg had left her job as a children’s librarian to become an accountant decades ago.

Today, the library has one of the largest memberships on Long Island and is unique in its partnerships within the community and the programs it offers residents. Earlier this week, Feinberg, known to most as Sandy, and responsible for much of the library’s growth since she became director in 1991, announced her retirement.

“I always said I was fortunate to take a job in Middle Country because it’s the type of community that appreciates its library,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg began working at the MCPL in 1971 as a children’s librarian and went on to develop and found the Family Place Libraries initiative, an early childhood and family support program. In September, the library was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant of $450,000 to support the initiative, which is now offered in more than 300 libraries in 24 states across the country.

During an October interview, Feinberg said winning the award was an honor, as only a small number of public libraries receive grants like it.

“It’s really an acclamation of my work and our work here,” she said.

Feinberg said she would continue to work part time with Family Place Libraries and will volunteer for various functions after she leaves her position in April 2013.

“It’s a nice way for me to stay mentally attached to the library and the work we’ve done here,” Feinberg said.

In addition to the Family Place Libraries programs, Feinberg also established the 2-1-1 Long Island database, a free online health, human services and education directory, the Nature Explorium, the first outdoor learning area for children at the library, and the library’s Miller Business Resource Center, a resource center for businesses, not-for-profit organizations and independent entrepreneurs. For the past 12 years, the library has also held an annual Women’s Expo, a showcase of Long Island women artists, designers, importers and distributors, with the showcase’s proceeds going to help the Miller Business Resource Center.

Feinberg said it is simply time to leave her position and is looking forward to seeing her staff have the chance to lead. Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, the library’s assistant
director, will succeed Feinberg.

Serlis-McPhillips began her career as an adult services librarian and went on to work with the Miller Business Resource Center. She said Feinberg has always worked to make the library better and it has been wonderful to work with an “innovative leader” like Feinberg.

“I am really just going to work hard to continue and foster all that is in place here at Middle County,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

In addition to her work with the MCPL, Feinberg is also a founding member and former president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce and was one of the first women to receive the Governor’s Award for Women of Distinction. In 2007, she received the Public Library Association’s Charlie Robinson Award and in 2008 she was inducted into the Suffolk County Women’s Hall of Fame.

Feinberg said she is looking forward to spending time with her husband, Richard, who has been retired for a couple of years, and with her family who live in seven different states.

She said she has always identified with the Middle Country community and remembers how supportive they have been since her first day as a children’s librarian.

“I don’t think I could have been in a better community,” she said.