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Port Jefferson Free Library

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Port Jefferson Free Library's children's section is bursting with books. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Coming Tuesday, April 2, the libraries in Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station will ask their local residents to vote on their budgets, each with marginal increases from last year.

The Comsewogue library. File photo

Comsewogue Public Library

The proposed 2019-20 budget total will be $5,999,878, an increase of close to $280,000 from the previous year. This year the library is proposing a districtwide total tax levy increase of $112,417. With the adoption of the proposed budget the library’s tax rate will increase approximately 56 cents from $12.845 to $13.402 per $100 of a home’s assessed valuation.

The new tax rate will repreent a 3.99 percent tax levy increase, which is below the library’s allowable tax levy increase of 4.64 percent. 

The library has continued to see significant demand for print collections, according to its director Debbie Engelhardt. It also has grown its online, electronic e-book, audiobook and streaming video collections. 

Engelhardt said the library will continue to integrate web and phone platform collections like Hoopla, which offers music, audiobooks, e-books and TV shows; Libby, offering e-books and audiobooks; and Flipster, which provides digital magazines. She said these will offer members convenient access to content from their phones and tablets. The library plans, in the near future, to add Kanopy, a video streaming platform consisting of classics, documentaries and indie films to its online collections.

Services like one-on-one, free tech sessions remain in demand, as well as instruction in using new tech devices and accessing online collections.

The Library’s Green Team, which was formed in late 2018, is looking to achieve a Green Library Certification through the New York Library Association, which presents the certification program in cooperation with the Green Business Partnership of Westchester. 

For the trustee election vote, there is only one candidate on the ballot. John Rossini has been a trustee for the past two years, having been appointed to fill a vacancy. Rossini has been a resident of the Comsewogue School District for the past 19 years and said in a statement that serving as a trustee has been an extraordinary experience. 

Budget/trustee election vote will be April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road. 

If you are unable to vote in person, you can apply for an absentee ballot by calling 631-928-1212, ext. 123 or by visiting the library’s website. 

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

Port Jefferson Free Library

For the 2019-20 year the library has a proposed $4,481,063 budget total, an increase of $62,000 from the previous year. Salaries will increase slightly by $20,000.

For building operations and maintenance, the library is proposing a budget of $276,000. That will cover the cost of equipment to maintain the library buildings. 

An important issue in the community is the status of the library cottage. The library board said it is working with the mayor, the historical society, the Friends of the Library and the village in the process of solidifying a design and weighing cost-benefit analysis.

To make library resources readily available to residents, they have designed a more streamlined website. The library’s “digital portal” has almost 1 million items cataloged, databases of information, discounted travel opportunities, free museum passes as well as access to web streaming services including Flipster, Kanopy and Hoopla. 

This year the library has a 2 percent tax cap, and the proposed tax amounts will come out to an estimated total monthly increase of less than $2.50 per month for the average household. The tax rate will increase 66 cents from $12.91 to $13.57. 

Voting for the proposed budget will be on April 2 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. library is located at 100 Thompson St. If you are unable to come in, absentee ballots are available through April 1 by calling 631-473-0022.  

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

Two spots for trustee on at the Port Jefferson Free Library are coming up for vote in January and five community members are asking library cardholders for their vote.

While current library trustee Christian Neubert is running again for the same spot, trustee Lisa Ballou has decided not to run again for her seat.

Those who wish to vote for the trustees must be a Port Jefferson Village resident and be a cardholder “in good standing,” meaning voters cannot have more than $5 outstanding on their library cards. The vote will be held 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 9, 2019, at the library.

Christian Neubert. Photo by Kyle Barr

Christian Neubert

As the incumbent, Christian Neubert said he feels he has become intimate with the qualities and the issues of the library over his six-year tenure.

“It’s important to not lose sight of the day-to-day processes we have going on here,” Neubert said.

Neubert said the library is missing out on the demographics of fourth- or fifth-graders as well as young professionals. He said if he were elected, he would work toward reaching out to those groups in conjunction with the library and is thinking of integrating the teen center with the main library building.

Lynn Hallarman. Photo by Kyle Barr

Lynn Hallarman

Dr. Lynn Hallarman, the director of Palliative Medicine Services at Stony Brook University Hospital said she is throwing her hat into the ring based on her unique background looking strategically at programs and institutions, as well as with urban planning, development and programming. Hallarman said the biggest changes will come to the library through urbanization, traffic, an aging population and higher taxes.

“The board has to be extremely forward thinking and out of the box in thinking about how a small-town library will survive,” she said.

Nancy Loddigs. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nancy Loddigs

Nancy Loddigs has been a resident of Port Jefferson for more than 30 years and boasts of her experience working in the libraries at Comsewogue School District and both Port Jefferson and Comsewogue public libraries.

The longtime Port Jeff resident said the library has already done a good job in its programming, with various adult programs being the most popular. She said she hopes those programs continue, but that the library will keep up with changing technology in order to stay current.

“I am interested in seeing how the library would be physically changed by incorporating all of these things,” Loddigs said. 

Wailin Ng

Wailin Ng, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been a Port Jefferson resident for a year, but she has been a patron of the library for close to a decade before that. 

Wailin Ng. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ng said there is potential for growth in the number of educational programs the library provides,

especially those that could get kids interested in STEM.

“We can increase the focus on introducing children to science,” Ng said. “We are in a very diverse community, and we have many people from other districts coming here. We need to assess where our needs are for educational programs.”

Joseph Orofino. Photo by Kyle Barr

Joseph Orofino

Joseph Orofino is a lifelong Port Jefferson resident with two kids currently in the Port Jeff school district. As a person who has worked in finance for 25 years, in both an upper management and on a voluntary basis with several local community organizations, he said he would work to make sure the library stays on top of its finances.

“My contribution could be making sure the library stays fiscally solvent,” he said.

When it comes to renovating the library’s currently owned properties, Orofino said the board should look at it from a long-term point of view.

“We need to weigh in on the existing plans and look at how financially they fit into the library on a long-term basis,” Orofino said.

      The Long Island Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson is pleased to partner with the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society to present an insightful and invaluable Cold Stun Sea Turtle Talk and Workshop on how to save sea turtles that wash up on our shores on Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
     As summer ends and the cooler fall weather finds its way to New York, the four different species of sea turtles that utilize our waters migrate south to warmer waters. Atlantic green, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles that fail to move out of our waters before the first cold snap will become hypothermic, stop swimming and eating and may wash up on our shores. When we act quickly there is a chance we can save them.
     Co-hosted by thePort Jefferson Village Center and the Port Jefferson Library, this workshop will provide participants with knowledge and skills needed to prevent these sea turtles from succumbing to the effects of the cold winter.
     To RSVP for the workshop, email Hannah at education@amseas.org. For more information, call 631-331-3277.

Library director open to hosting it again, though no plans currently in place to do so

Drag Queen Story Hour takes place at Port Jefferson Free Library Sept. 22. Photo by Amanda Schleisner

A Port Jefferson Free Library event aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity achieved its goal for some but also inspired the opposite reaction from others.

The library hosted an event entitled Drag Queen Story Hour Sept. 22, during which a drag queen trained by children’s librarians reads picture books, sings songs, and leads children ages three to eight in craft activities. The event took place at the PJFL and about 100 people attended, according to library Director Tom Donlon. The organization, Drag Queen Story Hour, has chapters across the United States and conducts the events in an effort to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” according to its website.

I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

— Kyleen Burke

The library promoted the event on its online calendar as “a program that raises awareness of gender diversity, promotes self-acceptance, and builds empathy through an enjoyable literary experience.” During the event in Port Jeff Sept. 22, several protestors stood outside the library holding signs and verbalizing their opposition to exposing children to the message promoted by the event.

Donlon said the board of trustees got the idea from a patron of the library who said they had heard of the events taking place elsewhere.

“We liked it because the program was just about diversity,” he said. Donlon added the goal was not to get into gender or sexuality. He said in the lead up to the event he received many calls both in favor and against, though the program filled up completely in just five days.

“We kind of knew that people were going to be upset,” he said. “I was a little dismayed people saw it as an indoctrination.”

Donlon added he was disappointed people who elected to protest or oppose the event “co-opted” it to promote their own agenda. The social media buzz leading up to the event and the subsequent protests likely led to what Donlon and board President John Grossman each characterized as an unusually large turnout for its monthly public board meeting at the library Sept. 24, during which several community members spoke in favor of and against the program.

“I don’t know a lot about living in this community as an adult,” said Kyleen Burke, a 2008 graduate of Port Jeff schools who said she has just recently moved back to the community as an adult. “I was thrilled to learn about this program because going to school in Port Jeff schools, it was a really small district, and I watched kids who diverted from the norm in any way get bullied and not feel represented here unfortunately, even though this is, in large part a really loving, really beautiful place to grow up. So embracing this opportunity totally blew my mind of what this community could be, and represents just a tremendous opportunity to continue to embrace every single kid, and to make this a welcoming space despite what the norms might be. So thank you for wading into this water and for standing up for unpopular people. I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

Others stressed their concerns about the event didn’t come from a place of hate or discrimination.

“I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

— Ruben Cruzate

Ruben Cruzate, who said he participated in the protests, said his picture and contact information had been circulated on social media, leading to harassment and attacks, he said.

“The reason I’m here is because I’ve never experienced such hate and intolerance,” he said, attributing his experience following the protests to members of the LGBTQ+ community. “I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

Children’s librarian Margaret Smith said during the meeting the event was a “joyful” occasion featuring sing-alongs and stories about inclusion.

“Thank you for your courage and for sticking with this program that was proposed, investigated and was planned,” she said.

Smith and Donlon each said the library plans to hold “story hour” events with people from other walks of life on a monthly basis going forward. While no date has been set, Donlon said the library is open to hosting Drag Queen Story Hour again if the community is interested.

This post was updated Sept. 25 to remove mention of Ruben Cruzate as a resident of Port Jeff. This post was updated Sept. 26 to remove a quote from Theresa Bendel at her request.

The Comsewogue library. 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.

Port Jefferson Free Library, located at 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson will host its 6th annual Community Service Fair for all ages on Saturday, March 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Have you been looking for ways to give back to your local community and to help those in need? There will be representatives from a range of community service organizations on hand including Friends of Karen, Mather Hospital, Long Term Ombudsman of the Family Service League of Long Island, Open Door Exchange, Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Theatre Three, Long Island Explorium (formerly Maritime Explorium), Port Jefferson Fire Department, Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen and more. Learn about each organization’s mission and how you (and your family) can become involved.

Open to all. No registration is required. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

CELEBRATE THEY SHALL The Force was strong in Port Jefferson Village last Saturday afternoon as the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library hosted its first Star Wars Day. Jedis and Siths called a truce for the event which celebrated 40 years of the classic film series with a visit from the Endor Light Saber Guild, Star Wars characters and vendors. The many visitors enjoyed taking part in Jedi training, crafts, games and raffles.

Photos by Heidi Sutton and Sal Filosa

From left, Leg. Kara Hahn and Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant check out the selection of books in the new Little Free Library at Rocketship Park with a young reader. Photo by Kevin Redding

‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’ — Margaret Fuller

By Kevin Redding

Port Jefferson’s newest minilibrary has liftoff at Rocketship Park. In a partnership between the Port Jefferson Free Library and the village board, a Little Free Library was recently installed at the family-friendly park, where adults, teens and children alike can reach into the purple-painted wooden box to pick up or drop off a wide array of books. An official ribbon cutting was held last Thursday, Sept. 28.

The library, shaped like a tiny schoolhouse and currently stocked with children’s titles like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” was built from a kit and installed by Stonegate Landscape. It stands as Port Jefferson Free Library’s second book exchange program, with the other unveiled in front of the William Miller House on North Country Road in Miller Place last month.

From left, PJFL Director Tom Donlon, Leg. Kara Hahn, Mayor Margot Garant and Chris Graf, president, Stonegate Landscape in East Setauket. Photo by Kevin Redding

Director of Port Jefferson Free Library Tom Donlon led elected officials, including Mayor Margot Garant and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for what the mayor called a fantastic addition to the town.

“I’m so happy that we can provide some reading for our young children because I think reading a book goes a long way to helping educate them and bring them into the world,” Garant said with giant scissors in hand. “[It’ll make for] a true sense of community, and that’s what makes our village great.”

Donlon said when the park reopened in June, he and the library’s board members knew it was a perfect spot for book-sharing for all ages. “We have families that come here and while the kids are running around, mom or dad or the adult with them might want something to read,” he said. “Giving back to the community is our goal. And you never know what you’re going to find in there … and what adventures await.”

Rocketship Park is located in the Village of Port Jefferson on Maple Place between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, across from the tennis courts. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

More to come as next location is planned for Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato unveils the new Little Free Library in front of the William Miller house in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

Outside the oldest house in Miller Place sits the newest public library on the North Shore.

What might initially appear to be a newly installed, red-and-white mailbox in front of the William Miller House at 75 North Country Road is actually a Little Free Library, where residents of all ages are encouraged to pick up or drop off a book while on the go.

The mini library, which is shaped like a tiny schoolhouse and currently holds between 15 and 20 books ranging from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to “Goodnight Moon,” stands as the most recent free book exchange program to sprout up on Long Island, with others installed at West Meadow Beach and Heritage Park in Mount Sinai last year.

Books inside the new Little Free Library in front of the WIlliam Miller House in Miller Place were donated by the Port Jefferson and Comsewogue libraries. Photo by Kevin Redding

The idea for the book-sharing movement, which has spanned more than 70 countries around the world since the first little library was built by Todd Bol of Wisconsin in tribute to his mother in 2009, is that with a quick turn of a wooden latch, it can increase book access for readers of all ages and backgrounds and to inspire a love of reading and community connection.

Members of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society unveiled their new addition Aug. 9 to a large crowd of smiling faces, which included residents, elected officials and representatives from Port Jefferson Free Library and Comsewogue Public Library. The two libraries partnered with the historical society to buy and sponsor it.

“I woke up this morning and I had the Mister Roger’s song in my head, ‘Oh what a beautiful day in the neighborhood,’” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society, during the ceremony. “This little library is symbolic of how our community comes together … and a community is strengthened when all the different organizations work well together. So when you reach into that box to put something in or take something out, please remember that you’re also reaching into your community. I hope it’s a very active library.”

Tom Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library, said when he and Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, decided to partner up to bring the program to the Miller Place community, they immediately knew the perfect place for it.

Jack Soldano, who has been selling his comic book collection this summer to raise money to help fix the historic William Miller House, was the first to add to the new Little Free Library’s collection. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Right away we thought of the historical society,” Donlon said. “The society really meshes with our libraries’ goals of education, entertainment, enlightenment and lifelong learning and investigation. We love that it’s here, it’s a great spot and I think it’s certainly going to serve the community very well.”

Engelhardt called little free libraries a beautiful concept.

“Anybody can use it as much as they want and it’s always a mystery when you open that box — you never know what you’ll find,” Engelhardt said. “There are no late fees, no guilt, no stress. If you want to keep a book, you can … we are pleased to partner with the historical society to bring this gem. The books inside will move you and teach you. We say that libraries change lives and, well, little free libraries can too.”

She added that these mini libraries have also proven to energize the spot they’re put in. For the historical society, whose William Miller House is nearly 300 years old and needs between $18,000 and $28,000 to renovate a collapsing roof and a total $100,000 for a full-house repair, any amount of attention to their cause is welcomed.

“What this does for us is it puts us in the limelight again, so that people are aware of us, they come and visit us and are sensitive to our needs,” Donato said.

Fittingly, although the box was stocked with books already donated by the libraries, the first batch of reading material from the public came from 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who spent the summer raising more than $1,000 for the historical society with his very own comic book stand.

Soldano contributed issues of Captain America, Star Wars and Power Rangers comics to join such titles as “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Stranger” by Harlan Coben and the Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Over at Heritage Park, next to the Shack concession stand by the playground, the red-painted little free library currently contains more youth-oriented reads. Several books within “The Babysitters Club” series and Walt Disney’s “Fun-To-Learn Library” collection, as well as “Sable” by Karen Hesse, are available for the taking.

Manorville resident Megan Murray, who was at the park with her young daughter, said she’s been a fan of the initiative since a few popped up in her area.

“The concept is great because it’s for everybody, rich or poor,” Murray said. “It’s really sad that so many kids don’t have access to books and I think it’s wonderful.”

Currently there are plans for a little free library to be installed at Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson next month.