Library

Photo from SBU

The coronavirus pandemic is a time like no other in U.S. history. The virus, which hit the New York area particularly hard, had Stony Brook University and Stony Brook University Hospital on high alert for months on end.

The hospital not only saw the heroic actions of doctors and nurses already on Stony Brook Medicine’s staff, but was also assisted by visiting nurses; medical students who graduated early to help fight on the frontlines; doctors and researchers jumping on ways to find a possible cure as quickly as possible; and essential workers who played an integral role in ensuring every process and procedure ran as smoothly as possible.

Students on the Stony Brook University campus during the Fall 2020 semester are wearing masks as a precaution against COVID-19 spread. Photo from SBU

On the University’s main campus, 3-D shields were printed as a PPE shortage was looming; hand sanitizer was created by several chemists in the Chemistry laboratory; and a prototype of a respirator was put together by a team from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences which could be assembled quickly and used if necessary.

Now, Stony Brook University Libraries has announced the development of “Documenting COVID-19: Stony Brook University Experiences,” a new digital archive project established to collect, preserve, and publish the institutional history of Stony Brook University during this unprecedented moment in history.

“The archive will primarily be formed from submissions received directly from students, faculty, staff, and alumni that document life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews, first-hand accounts, flyers, photographs, and more will be important sources to consult in the future to study, interpret, and derive meaning from this historic time period,” said Kristen Nyitray, University Archivist and Director of Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University.

All from the Stony Brook University community are invited to contribute to the archive by submitting content or participating in an interview via a dedicated web page, “Documenting COVID-19: Stony Brook University Experiences” from which the library project team will collect information, photos, videos, personal stories and other COVID-19 related information.

For more information, visit www.library.stonybrook.edu/special-library-initiatives/documenting-covid-19/.

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The Comsewogue library. File photo

After being given the option to reschedule its annual trustee and budget vote, the Comsewogue Public Library is asking residents to say “yes” to its $6,087,294 2020 budget, during a vote next Tuesday. 

The over $6 million budget is a 1.46% increase from last year, and represents a $58,528 district-wide tax levy increase. This accoutns for a 2% tax levy increase over last year’s tax levy, below the New York State tax levy cap of 2.79%.

Of the total budget, the library estimates $2,981,394 is to be raised by district taxes. This accounts for an annual increase of approximately $6.65 to $10 for a home valued between $2,500 to $4,000, or 27 cents per $100 of the estimated assessed value of one’s home.

The proposed budget includes moderate increases to most budget areas including staff, library programming, library operations and administrative expenses. This year’s capital improvement bond debt service and building expenses decreased slightly from the previous year’s budget.

“The proposed budget ensures the continuation of the library’s high-quality service program, which continually adapts to community needs and interests,” said library Director Debbie Englehardt in an email.

At the same time as the budget vote, residents will also be asked to vote to reelect Corinne DeStefano to library trustee. She is running unopposed to retain her seat for a 5-year term on the library board. She is currently the library board president.

DeStefano is a lifelong Comsewogue resident, having grown up just a few blocks from the library, according to her Comsewogue library bio. She is married to Robert DeStefano, a Comsewogue school board trustee, and has two children, ages 11 and 7.

DeStefano is a software engineering manager at Broadcom, which makes products for the wireless and broadband communication industry. She is a “big fan of the library” who is “always looking for ways to serve the community.”

District residents should have already received a budget brochure in the mail in advance of the original April vote date. Residents should have also received a special library newsletter directing them to the website for more details.

Those interested in applying for an absentee ballot for the library budget vote and election should call 631-928-1212, extension 123, or visit cplib.org/budgetvote.

The vote for this year’s budget is scheduled for Sept. 15, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allowed bodies like libraries to delay their budget votes from when they normally host it in April. Residents can vote at the library on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other Area Libraries

The Port Jefferson Free Library has already announced during July the library board voted to cancel the 2020-21 budget vote and maintain a 0% increase in operating budget from last year to this year. Library Director Tom Donlon said in the library’s fall newsletter that the library board “felt that with the current pandemic, high unemployment and staged tax increases due to LIPA, it would be unfair to our community to pursue an increase in taxes this year.”

The library director added the board feels the library can still meet the community’s needs without incurring additional expenses. 

The library will host an election in January 2021 for three trustee seats. Two five-year terms are expiring along with an unexpired one-year term that is up for grabs. Applications will be available at the circulation desk starting Sept. 21.

The North Shore Public Library is also hosting a trustee election this year, where current trustee William Schiavo is running unopposed. The election is set for Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the North Shore Public Library next to the Shoreham-Wading River High School. People looking to apply for an absentee ballot can call 631-929-4488 or visit northshorepubliclibrary.org/absentee-ballot-application-and-procedure.

By Melissa Arnold

After a long, eerily quiet spring that forced the majority of public places to close, life is getting back to normal on Long Island. Slowly but surely, area libraries are opening their doors to patrons eager to browse and borrow.

“At 10 a.m. on July 6 when the first person walked through our doors and said, ‘It’s good to be back,’ I felt wonderful,” said Carol Albano, director of the Harborfields Library in Greenlawn. “One of our regular patrons walked over to our new book area and put her arms out and said, ‘I just want to hug all the books.’”

It’s a sigh of relief shared by librarians around the Island, especially given that when they closed their doors in March, there was no telling how or when they’d be able to open them again.

“Closing the building during the New York State shutdown felt surreal; it was new territory for everyone involved,” recalled Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station. “The staff and I immediately set about establishing work-from-home stations so we could maintain strong services, programs, and communication with the public and with each other in our day-to-day operations.”

Throughout history, libraries have continually needed to broaden the scope of their services to keep up with the community’s habits and interests. For example, in addition to books and periodicals, libraries offer community programs, tutoring, music, movies, video games, museum passes, audiovisual equipment and much more.

During quarantine, many libraries made their first foray into the world of livestreaming and video conferencing. From read-alongs and book discussions to cooking demos, yoga hours and gardening lessons, library staff continued to bring people together in socially distant ways.

And while this technology will remain a part of the new normal — e-book borrowing numbers are higher than they’ve ever been in Suffolk County, and many events remain virtual for now — the libraries are thrilled to welcome patrons back to their brick-and-mortar homes.

Of course, things are going to look a little different, and local libraries have new rules and policies in place to keep everyone safe. Here’s a breakdown:

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket is the oldest library in Suffolk County to provide service from its original location. Managing a collection of more than 200,000 items isn’t easy, and director Ted Gutmann said they started planning for reopening almost immediately after the shutdown.

“It was quite an interesting time,” Gutmann said. “It was all I thought about for weeks — how we were going to reopen safely and what it might look like. The state had certain parameters that all public places had to follow, so we used that as a guide as we planned.”

So far, they’ve opted for a conservative approach, allowing patrons to browse and check out materials, but limit activities that promote lingering. Patrons are asked to limit their visit to under 30 minutes. Public seating, some of the computers and all toys in the children’s library have been temporarily removed. Visitors can move throughout the aisles between the book shelves, but should follow directional arrows on the floor similar to those in use at grocery stores. Staff will offer assistance from behind plastic shields.

“Right now, we don’t want to encourage people to spend an extended time here for their own safety,” Gutmann explained. “They are welcome to browse and borrow, then bring their things home to enjoy.”

At the Comsewogue Public Library, reopening has occurred in phases with extensive planning throughout. It’s all been worth it, Engelhardt said,

“Opening the doors again felt like great progress. It was exciting, a big step toward more normalcy,” she said. “Our experience in reopening the building was overwhelmingly positive. We worked hard on our reopening plan, which met all state safety requirements and was approved by the county.”

Curbside pickup of borrowed materials will continue, as it’s a convenient, preferred option for some, but Engelhardt noted the number of in-person visitors has grown in recent weeks.

“Most come in to pick up items they’ve requested, and many are excited to once again enjoy browsing the shelves. Other popular draws are our computers, copiers, and fax services,” she explained.

Some changes: The lounge and study area furniture isn’t available right now, and clear plastic dividers are in place at service desks.

“Other than that, we have the same great circulating collections in print and online, from the traditional (think hot summer bestsellers and movies) to the more innovative (hotspots, Take and Make crafts, Borrow and Bake cake pans),” Engelhardt added.

At Harborfields Public Library, reopening plans began back in April as the staff met for regular Zoom meetings with other area libraries. “Step one was to develop a building safety plan — we met with our head of maintenance and went over each aspect of the building, from the mechanical systems to the physical layout of the furniture and library materials, to ordering personal protective equipment for the staff,” Albano said.

At this time, there is only one chair at each table, every other computer has been removed, and toys and games were temporarily taken out of the children’s area. 

You’ll also find plastic shields at the service desks, and that public restrooms have been installed with automatic faucets and automatic flushing toilets, Albano said.

“All areas of the library are open to the public, including all library materials. The only exception is the public meeting rooms are closed, because at this time we are not holding any in-house programming or meetings,” she added. “Computers are still available in the adult, teen and children’s departments, and soft seating and tables are in each department as well.”

As for borrowed materials, there’s no need to worry about catching COVID-19 from a library book, DVD or CD. Once materials are returned, they are kept quarantined for 72 hours.  Research from the global scientific organization Battelle has shown the virus is undetectable on books and similar items after just one day.

So rejoice, bookworms, and browse to your heart’s content. Your local librarians are ready to welcome you back — masked up, of course.

Individual library policies, event schedules and hours of operation vary and are subject to change — contact your local branch for the most current information. For contact information, database access, and to borrow electronic media including ebooks and audiobooks, visit www.livebrary.com. Please remember to wear a mask and practice social distancing while visiting any library.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

Libraries Make Difficult Decisions Regarding Budget Votes

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

Libraries across Suffolk County may be closed, but they are not done serving the community.

In fact, the entire county library system has pulled together using a unique resource to benefit healthcare workers at Stony Brook hospital. 

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

The Suffolk Cooperative Library System has pulled together well over 50 3D printers from libraries across its network into one auditorium — now a sort of 3D printing farm — at its headquarters in Bellport. Hourly, these printers are churning out plastic parts for face shields used by medical workers. 

By March 30, officials expect over 70 printers should be hooked up to the printing farm. While the first five printers were owned by the library system, a score of others have come courtesy of local public libraries. Those who did not even have one, asked the library system to order one on their behalf, saying they will own it once the coronavirus crisis has ended.

Hospital workers use to avoid the splash of fluids to their faces from sick patients, and the printing farm is creating the headband portion of the protective gear. Stony Brook University’s iCREATE lab, hosted by IT professional David Ecker, has been producing said face shields for the past several days. Once the batch of headbands is printed by SCLS, Ecker accepts the devices and finalizes construction. 

Ecker has also included instructions for people to make their own face shields at https://nyinnovate.com/2020/03/26/face-shields-icreate/

Roger Reyes, the assistant director at the SCLS, has been working long hours getting everything up and running. While originally with fewer printers they were doing 75 a day, he said with a bevy of more printers he expects an output of about 250 a day. Each batch is delivered to Stony Brook by appointment. Each component takes around 2 to 3 and ½ hours depending on the model of the printer, but with the mass of devices at the Bellport office, they have been able to supply Stony Brook with many, many more components than Ecker was able to produce on his few machines. He added that MakerBot, a company that produces 3D printers, has committed to donate plastic filament to the project.

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

He was surprised by the number of libraries who went out of their way to reach out and provide their printers once the call went out. He said it was amazing for even the libraries who didn’t have printers who reached out to tell them to purchase another printer on their dime.

“I know the libraries,”Reyes said.  “I’ve worked with the library system for 11 years — they were struggling to close their buildings.Normally, libraries are there in emergency situations. That’s where people go for refuge, help and information, so to close their doors is hard for them. This idea is a relief for them.”

Comsewogue Public Library’s 3D printer was one of the first hooked up to the system after the SCLS set up its own internal bank of five printers, according to Debbie Englehardt, the library’s director. She said the library also provided its filament, which is the plastic the printers heat up and use to print said objects.

“The library system is continuing to ask SBU Hospital how else we can assist, whether it’s with encouraging the public as to a particular cover for N95 masks or getting the info out as to what’s needed.”

Tom Donlon, the director of the Port Jefferson Free Library, said they donated two of their printers, one from reference and another from the teen center. Additionally, the library has purchased an additional three printers to use on the farm. These were devices the director said his library was already planning to purchase.  The Middle Country Public Library donated five 3D printers, and the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket also announced it purchased a printer for use by the SCLS.

Libraries Look to Offer Services While Closed

Englehardt said it has been hard on the staff especially once it became clear the Comsewogue library had to close. Staff were nervous, but then something unique happened. One of her staff helped library workers through a staff Facebook group in guided meditation. The members  found it so successful, the library is now offering it on Facebook in periodic events for the general public.

Libraries all over have had to recreate its services online during the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We feel during this time that people would like a familiar librarian face to chat with,” Donlon said, also chatting up several classes including tutorials for people looking to use GoToMeeting, tutorials for how to download ebooks on Kindle and an online Teen Center Meetup, scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. The library has also installed a chat app on the website that is being monitored by librarians in shifts to answer in real time.

Comsewogue Public Library has tried to bring some of its demonstrations and activities normally held in the library space online, including chats with librarians through video and cooking demonstrations. Libraries have also expanded access to sites like Hoopla and Kanopy, which allows patrons to access books and movies from home.

“We’ve all had an interesting time of it — we’ve had to basically reinvent our service program in order to bring it online and to try and differentiate what we’re offering compared to what other outlets are offering,” Englehardt said. “People are working from home. It’s discombobulating and isolating with everyone working on crazy schedules. People are overstimulated, and it’s hard to force yourself to relax.”

Libraries all across Long Island have had to make hard choices, especially those who hold budget votes and board elections in the spring months. The Port Jefferson Free Library announced March 25 it would be not holding its budget vote as scheduled for April 7. Donlon said in a statement they were looking at possibly rescheduling for June. Similarly, with libraries mandated closed by New York State until April 19, Comsewogue will also not be able to hold a public budget vote, though it plans to go ahead with a budget and board election in June.

Though there is another option available to libraries — essentially not holding a public vote, which Englehardt said would mean reverting back to last year’s tax year numbers.

This could potentially mean a drop in tax revenue and potentially financial aid to those libraries who take this route. 

“Each library would have to evaluate and re approach the operating budget,” she said “It would mean changes — we don’t know how the situation could affect state aid.”

It could also mean a change in services if the library board decides to go that route.

“Would hope the public wouldn’t notice any changes to service programs,” Englehardt said. “We know people will need us more than ever.”

The Middle Country Public Library continues to remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but library directors said its remote operations and digital platforms have been embraced and heavily trafficked by patrons who are utilizing the valuable access to information, programs and services.

The use of electronic resources has grown exponentially, and during this time, the library has offered more then 60 programs virtually, many of which were recorded and are available to view on the YouTube channel mcpl.tv. Included are programs for all ages such as instruction for using Google Classroom, yoga, cooking programs, art activities and story times. Visit http://www.mcplibrary.org/online-programs/ for a complete listing of online programs. Features include Citizenship Preparation, story times, cooking instruction, book discussions and arts and crafts activities.

In addition, Middle Country residents can register for a temporary library card online and contact the library’s customer service department to update the card to one with full privileges. A MCPL library card allows patrons to access the library’s extensive online offerings, including access to Live-brary, Hoopla, Kanopy and RB Digital, through which patrons can access thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, music and movies, as well as learning resources including online homework help and language learning.

This story was updated to say the Middle Country Public Library donated five 3D printers.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

North Shore libraries are shutting their doors temporarily in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement has come after multiple levels of government, including New York State and the White House declared state of emergencies Thursday and Friday, respectively. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has called for a shutdown of all public gathering of 500 people or more.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Setauket’s Emma S. Clark Memorial Library announced March 13 that the building will be closed from Saturday, March 14, through at least Sunday, March 22.

The library will be evaluating the coronavirus situation to decide what will happen after March 22.

Patrons won’t accrue a late fee if items are due. The library asked that residents not bring materials to the book drop or leave them outside the building during this time.

Smithtown Library

On March 13, the Smithtown Library also notified patrons on its website and social media that all buildings would be closed until further noticed.

Book drops at all four library buildings will be closed until the library reopens. All fines accrued while its closed will be waived.

Port Jefferson Free Library

The Port Jefferson Free Library has closed its doors effective March 13 until further notice due to coronavirus concerns.

Patrons will not accrue any late fees on checked-out items while the library is closed.

Comsewogue Public Library

The Comsewogue Public Library is closed Sunday, March 15 and Monday, March 16. The library will open at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday for a board of trustees meeting that is open to the public. The discussion topics will be on Covid 19.

North Shore Public Library

The North Shore Public Library will be closed starting March 16 until further notice. The outside book drop is closed, and all patrons will not incur any late fees while the library is shut down.

Other online services are still available.

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

The Port Jefferson Free Library has closed its doors effective March 13 until further notice due to coronavirus concerns. 

Library Director Tom Donlon announced it late Friday after the library administration and board of trustees came to the decision it was necessary to “protect the health and well being of patrons and staff,” according to an email statement.

The announcement has come after multiple levels of government, including New York State and the White House declared a state of emergencies Thursday and Friday, respectively. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has called for a shutdown of all public gathering of 500 people or more. 

“The library fully appreciates and understands the disappointment and disruption that this action will cause, but finds that it is paramount to preserve to the greatest extent possible the safety of our patrons and staff during this declared state of emergency,” a statement from the library read. 

Patrons will not accrue any late fees on checked-out items while the library is closed.

The statement also asked patrons to consult the library’s website, portjefflibrary.org,  for ongoing developments. Online services including Overdrive, Hoopla and Kanopy are still available from the library’s website.

Over 300 children and their families shuffled into Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket during the school winter recess, Feb. 20, to enjoy the library’s 8th annual Take Your Child to the Library Day. Visitors enjoyed carnival games, face painting, temporary tattoos, balloon sculpting, crafts and more.  

Photos courtesy of Emma Clark Library

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Port Jefferson Free Library tears down a derelict building at 114 Thompson Street. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Port Jefferson Free Library board and directors have had the difficult task of upgrading facilities while keeping budget neutral. The new plan includes tearing down a condemned structure and seeking means to renovate the Bayles house.

In a release, president of the library board John Grossman said a multi-year planning process called for a building additional with additional parking spaces, though due to the settlement between LIPA and the Village/Town of Brookhaven back in December of the 2018, “the Board determined it would be neither feasible nor fair to the community to pursue that level of funding.”

“We know this is the responsible direction to take so that we can step up to their service needs without incurring significant additional expense,” Grossman added.

Instead, the board voted to demolish the structure at 114 Thompson Street, which the library purchased in 2009. Demolition began Feb. 3.

Thomas Donlon, the library’s executive director, said he wasn’t there when the property was originally purchased, but suspected the library originally had nebulous plans to retrofit the building that never materialized.

The library director said the Thompson property will be regraded and buffered once demolition of the building is fully complete. Costs for that project come in at approximately $60,000.

The LIPA decision has also put a hold on the library’s original designs for a master plan, which Donlon said has been put to the side while the LIPA settlement plays out.

Currently the library rents the building across the street for teenagers and for other meetings.

Donlon said they will now be seeking a permit for renovations to the Bayles house at the corner of East Main Street and Vineyard Place for a designated teen area and additional meeting space. Costs for that project are still largely up in the air while they await that permit and for an architect to draw up designs.

“By moving those activities within the footprint of existing structures, we avoid the growing costs for renting and managing an off-site space,” Donlon said.