'The Last Thing He Told Me' by Laura Dave was the most requested audiobook among Suffolk County library patrons in 2022.

The Public Libraries of Suffolk County recently announced that it reached a record-breaking three million digital book checkouts on in 2022. This milestone illustrates the continued growth and importance of library lending of e-books, audiobooks and other digital media as well as the library’s success in serving all members of the community. 

Livebrary, consisting of 56 libraries in Suffolk County, is #13 of all public library consortia, one of 129 public library systems worldwide and third in New York that surpassed one million checkouts last calendar year.

The Public Libraries of Suffolk County have been providing readers 24/7 access to e-books and audiobooks for several years through the award-winning Libby app, the library reading app created by OverDrive. The large collection serves readers of all ages and interests, and usage has grown every year.

“The Public Libraries of Suffolk County continue to provide access to a diverse collection of e-books and audiobooks giving readers the opportunity to connect with a wealth of information and entertainment from wherever they may be,” said Kevin Verbesey, Director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

The highest-circulating title Livebrary readers borrowed in 2022 was The Last Thing He Told Me by internationally bestselling author Laura Dave. The instant #1 New York Times bestselling mystery and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick is about a woman searching for the truth about her husband’s disappearance…at any cost. The top-circulating genre, romance, represents the most popular in a vast catalog that also includes mystery, fantasy, children/young adult and more.

The top five e-book titles borrowed through Livebrary’s digital collection in 2022 were:

1. Verity by Colleen Hoover

2. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

3. Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

The top five audiobook titles borrowed through Livebrary’s digital collection in 2022 were:

1. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

3. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

4. The Maid by Nita Prose

5. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Suffolk County residents just need a valid library card from a member library to access digital books from Livebrary’s OverDrive-powered digital collection. 

Readers can use any major device, including Apple®, Android™, Chromebook™ and Kindle® (U.S. only). 

Download the Libby app or visit to get started borrowing e-books, audiobooks and more anytime, anywhere.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 26.

'Witch House' by Bryan Sansivero

By Tara Mae

When a once bustling home has languished into landscape, what lingers in the places where people once lived? Dreams of Decay: Shining a Light on Abandoned Places, a photography exhibit by Bryan Sansivero at the Huntington Public Library, 338 Main St., Huntington from Jan. 6 to Feb. 3, 2023, explores what remains and what may be reclaimed. 

Self-portrait of photographer Bryan Sansivero in front of the ‘Witch House’

Consisting of approximately 30 color photographs, ranging in size from 6”x4” to 20”x30,” the exhibit is Sansivero’s first solo show and chronicles his travels through Europe and North America, showcasing homes and other habitations that have been given up to the ravages of time.

“I have always been interested in abandoned spaces, old architecture,” Sansivero, who grew up in Huntington, said. “I am a very curious person; if something is abandoned and the door is open, I am going in to photograph it. I have seen hundreds of houses; I just photograph the ones that make you go ‘Oh my gosh,’ like the things left behind.”

Reflecting his ties to the community, some of the settings may be familiar to visitors, such as a Huntington mansion, a Commack farmhouse, and Bogheid, a historic estate in Glen Cove.

These deserted structures, frequently abandoned due to inheritance issues and disputes, are time capsules to places and people of the past. In Sansivero’s photos, among the light and shadows, the audience finds hints as to when comfort became careworn: crumbling wallpaper, disowned toys, tintype photographs, artifacts of age. 

With the absence of conventional subjects, the homes and their inanimate inhabitants become the sitters for portraits of ruin and reclamation. Sansivero’s photographs take patrons on a transAtlantic tour of everything from cottages to chateaus, in local, national, and international locations.

“I want some kind of story to be in my photos, almost like you’re reading a novel. People tell me that they see so many stories in my photographs. Sometimes I can research the families that lived there, people may want to know the background, etc., but I think not knowing may be better so you form your own opinions; an intentional mystery,” he added. 

‘American Flag Piano’ by Bryan Sansivero

The inherent intrigue of abandoned places is what first drew Sansivero to them. As a college student studying film, his senior thesis was a short documentary shot at the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, now the site of Nissequogue River State Park. Then, while visiting family in Pennsylvania, the open door of an abandoned home lured him inside. The rest, as they say, is history.

“When I found that house in Pennsylvania with everything left behind — an old suit in the closet, an old piano, old photographs — it was like a movie set, or the entry into another time period,” Sansivero said. 

It ignited a passion that led Sansivero to sojourn in search of forgotten or abandoned places. Through online and in-person networking, he makes contacts both here and abroad who connect him with deserted houses and institutions. 

This system has created a sprawling body of thousands of images, selections of which he shares with the public. Using Instagram as an interactive catalog for many of his images, Sansivero, who also does editorial and portrait photography, published a photo book in 2021 about his trips through the United States titled American Decay: Inside America’s Forgotten Homes. A follow-up, sharing images from his journeys through Europe, is currently in development. 

Dreams of Decay is a crossroads of his travels; while some of the images in the exhibit have been featured on Instagram or in his book, others will be making their public debut. The resulting exhibit will highlight Sansivero’s most popular photos as well as his personal favorites.

“I am really excited to showcase them,” he said. “I cannot wait to see the reactions from people, particularly strangers, and get some input and insight…see how they are responding, especially to the new work. It is amazing to have my very first show in my hometown.”

‘Dollhouse’ by Bryan Sansivero

Brittany Bowen, the Art Gallery and Display Cases Coordinator for Huntington Public Library, first reached out to Sansivero a few years ago after she discovered his photography while researching local artists online. 

“…I was so taken with his work that I reached out to him immediately. I was very excited when he enthusiastically accepted my invitation to exhibit here. I tend to gravitate toward art and photography that captures mystery and intrigue. Bryan finds beauty in the unconventional, and I appreciate that. I think others will, too,” she said. 

The public is invited to an opening reception on Jan. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. Viewing hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information on the exhibit, call 631-427-5165. To learn more about Bryan Sansivero’s work, visit 

Registration is now open! The Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson hosts an Author Panel featuring Sarah Beth Durst, Catherine Asaro and Kelley Skovron on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.  

Join them for an evening filled with mystery, interstellar fantasy, misfit animals, and a ghost with a vengeance. Hear from these award-winning authors about their newly published novels, writing process, behind the scenes info, and more in this panel-style event. 

Moderated by Salvatore J. Filosa, Head of Technical Services and Marketing & Outreach Librarian,  newly released titles to be discussed include: The Jigsaw Assassin, 2022,  published by Baen Books, by Catherine Asaro (perfect for adult readers); The Shelterlings, 2022, published by Clarion Books of Harper Collins, by Sarah Beth Durst (perfect for kids); and The Ghost of Drowned Meadow, 2022, published by Scholastic, by Kelley Skovron (perfect for kids). 

The event is open to all. To register, call 631-473-0022 or visit

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket is currently holding a Pajamas for Those in Need Drive through Nov. 20. Library staff and volunteers will be collecting new pajamas in any size to be donated to homeless shelters. Donation boxes will be located in the Library lobby to the left of the Circulation Desk, and all are welcome to donate (residents or nonresidents) during Library hours. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

The Homegrown String Band

The Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson presents The Homegrown String Band in concert Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.

The Homegrown String Band™ celebrates the American tradition of families making music together. This family band’s repertoire includes a healthy portion of early country music classics by the likes of The Carter Family and Delmore Brothers, along with a tasty sprinkling of original material inspired by the rural American string band and folk traditions of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Comprised of husband and wife plus daughter, this dynamic trio adds their own musical DNA to an American tradition, taking you on a musical journey from ancient ballads of the British Isles to blues and bluegrass of the twentieth century.

The family has been performing together for twenty-five years, playing such venues as The National Theatre in Washington DC to the Festival of American Music in Branson Missouri.

Open to all. Pre-registration is necessary to keep the music flowing. Sign up at, or call 631-473-0022 to reserve a seat.

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Smithtown residents voted for three library board trustees and the 2023 library budget on Oct. 11.

Voters chose from 15 candidates which was the most since Smithtown residents voted for an independent library district more than 20 years ago, according to library director Robert Lusak. In 2001, 20 candidates were running for seven seats.

This year, incumbents Joseph Gregurich and Anita Dowd-Neufeld were among the candidates. Current trustee Marie Gergenti, whose term expires at the end of the year, decided not to run again. 

Both Gregurich and Dowd-Neufeld lost their seats as residents voted Annette Galarza (1,819), Mildred Bernstein (1,746) and Howard Knispel (1,719) to the library board. 

The library’s 2023 budget passed, 3,012 to 1,132. 

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Smithtown residents will find 15 candidates vying for three seats when they vote for Smithtown Library trustees on Oct. 11. The election will also include a vote on the 2023 budget.

The number of candidates is the most since Smithtown residents voted for an independent library district more than 20 years ago, according to library director Robert Lusak. In 2001, 20 candidates were running for seven seats.

This year, incumbents Joseph Gregurich and Anita Dowd-Neufeld are among the candidates. Current trustee Marie Gergenti, whose term expires at the end of the year, decided not to run again. 

Brief biographies and mission statements from each candidate are listed on the Smithtown Library website,

On Monday, Oct. 3, the League of Women Voters held a Meet the Candidates Night via Zoom, which can be viewed on the library’s YouTube page through 

Regarding the trustee elections, Lusak said the desire is to have candidates with “a passion for libraries.”

“I would hope that anybody who runs for the library board cares about their library and wants to make sure that it’s the pillar of the community,” he said.

He added the library’s goal is to ensure “we provide high-quality customer service.”

The library director said previously passed budgets have allowed new services such as a notary public, a patent and trademark research library, a passport facility in the Smithtown building, and Library of Things where cardholders can take out items not expected at a library such as telescopes.

“When our budgets in all the previous years were successfully passed, it allowed us to introduce new technologies and new services that might not exist,” he said.

Recently, Marilyn LoPresti decided to resign from her board position. Due to the timing of the resignation, which would not allow certain deadlines to be met, her seat is not among those up for vote. The board will appoint a person to take over her position. The appointee will run in 2023 and, if successful, will finish out LoPresti’s term, which was scheduled for Dec. 31, 2024.

Residents who are registered voters will have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to the Smithtown Special Library District’s $17,434,000 proposed budget for 2023. Voting takes place at all library locations from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association held its Meet the Candidates forum at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The Democratic and Republican nominees for New York State’s 1st Senate District and 4th Assembly District attended this civic meeting. The candidates received time to deliver opening statements, then answered questions covering a range of local subjects, followed by closing remarks. 

(Left to right) Anthony Palumbo, Skyler Johnson, Steve Englebright, and Edward Flood. Photos by Raymond Janis


Before entering elective office, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) worked as an attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He was in private practice for roughly 10 years before running for the state Assembly in 2013. He served the 2nd Assembly District until 2020, after which he assumed his current position.

Challenging Palumbo is Democrat Skyler Johnson, a 22-year-old Mount Sinai native and former political aide to Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren. If Johnson were to win this November, he would become the youngest person to serve in the state Legislature since Theodore Roosevelt.

In the Assembly race, incumbent state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is also up for reelection. Englebright, a geologist by training, joined the state Assembly in 1992. Before that, he served as a Suffolk County legislator for nearly a decade.

Edward Flood is Englebright’s Republican challenger in this race. Flood serves as an assistant attorney for the Town of Brookhaven and is the town’s lead prosecutor for town code violations.

LIRR electrification

Each candidate supported electrifying the Port Jefferson Branch line of the Long Island Rail Road, with some variations in approach. 

Englebright advocates moving the existing Port Jefferson train station onto the county-owned Lawrence Aviation property. This plan, the assemblyman believes, would bring value to the community in the form of cleaner air and higher property values. 

“I am working to try to get the Long Island Rail Road to come into the modern age,” he said. “We will prevail. The first thing to do is to have a community that’s united. … If this community is supportive of that, that will be a big boost.”

Flood condemned the MTA for its historical neglect of Long Island communities. He seeks to pressure the MTA’s governing board and add a local representative to that body. “I don’t believe we have a local representative, and I don’t think anyone on that board cares much about us,” he said. “That needs to change.”

Johnson criticized the needless delays for residents traveling to New York City by rail. He favored allocating more state resources to address these concerns.

“It’s not the most fun trip getting onto the Long Island Rail Road,” he said. “We need to continually invest in the Long Island Rail Road because that will properly benefit our communities, it will help people commute, help people live better lives, and it will make our communities cleaner and safer.”

Palumbo underscored several of these points, backing his support behind moving the Port Jeff train station to the Lawrence Aviation property. “All of those issues are extremely important to this community,” he said. “I think we all agree that this is something that needs to be done.”


Another central topic for Port Jefferson Station/Terryville residents is homelessness. 

Flood proposed that many of the problems associated with homelessness stem from alcohol and substance abuse. He proposed strengthening addiction treatment programs and mental health services. 

“Unfortunately, addiction is rampant throughout the homeless community and possibly the reason why they are homeless,” the Assembly candidate said. “We need to do a better job finding resources to adequately treat people.”

Englebright approached the subject of homelessness through the lens of planning. According to him, this requires offering a coherent vision for the Port Jefferson Station area, much of that concentrated around managing the Lawrence Aviation property, followed by investment.

“That would make it possible for us to accelerate the investment into Port Jefferson Station itself,” he said. “We hear a lot of talk about transit-oriented development, and this is the appropriate place for that policy to be fully fleshed out.”

Johnson supported a “great investment into mental health” to ensure people experiencing homelessness receive the necessary tools to get off the streets. He also said the issue is tied to the affordability and housing crises on Long Island. 

“We do not have proper affordable housing, and we do not have proper workforce housing on Long Island,” the state Senate candidate said. “I’m going to make sure that we do everything that we can to bring home the funds so that we are investing in housing projects, while investing in our critical infrastructure, our public transportation, our roads to make sure that we are keeping up with the flux of people coming into our community.”

Palumbo discussed homelessness as a multifaceted issue, requiring changes in affordable housing, enforcement practices and mental health services.

“I think, generally, Long Island is unaffordable,” he said. “We need to lower the cost of living on Long Island, make it all more affordable, and most importantly do what we can to deal with an affordable housing crisis.”

Concluding remarks

During their closing statements, the candidates were asked to provide their two highest legislative priorities that would also affect Port Jefferson Station/Terryville residents.

Johnson stated his two highest priorities would be affordability and infrastructure improvements. “We need to make sure that we are putting money back in the pockets of everyday people,” he said. “And I’m going to make sure that we do that, and we’re going to make sure that we are investing in our roads and infrastructure.”

Palumbo said his two highest priorities are closely linked to one another. He first hopes to alleviate the burden of high taxes and the unaffordable cost of living on Long Island, then tackle rising crime rates.

“I think other things will fall in place if we get control of the crime issue,” the state senator said. “Coupling that with affordability … we’re losing people for a number of reasons in New York, and we shouldn’t be losing anyone.” He added, “We’re an amazing state, and we need to do what we can to save it.”

Though he did not identify the two highest priority issues, Flood highlighted several matters he would like to remediate if elected. Among these are rising crime, bail reform and better state budgeting.

“I see firsthand some of the effects the state has put into place in terms of bail reform,” Flood said. “They’ve added extra hardships to prosecutors and those in criminal justice, and you see it in an increase of crime, in the inability of a district attorney to bring cases forward, and in that, you have local governments who are handcuffed in trying to comply with a lot of these laws.”

For Englebright, his two highest priorities are the electrification of the Port Jefferson line and better community planning. The assemblyman foresees many positive effects if the existing railyard relocates to the Lawrence Aviation property.

“This is, after all, Port Jefferson Station,” he said. “Our station area should be enhanced, and the plan that we put forward for that should not just be something that looks like South Brooklyn. It should look like a vision of what this community should look like when it looks itself in the mirror.” He concluded, “It should be a place of pride. I believe it should be a public park.”

File photo by Giselle Barkley

During a public meeting of the Rocky Point school district board of education on Monday, Aug. 29, Sound Beach resident Bea Ruberto confronted the board over its decision to reverse a longstanding practice regarding book donations.

In June, district parent Allison Villafane donated several books related to Pride Month. In mid-July, the board sparked controversy from the public for its decision to no longer accept book donations from parents. 

During a special meeting on July 28, members of the board justified their decision on the grounds that they lack expertise in children’s literature. For more on this story, “Rocky Point BOE reverses practice on book donations, causes controversy,” see TBR News Media Aug. 11 print and online editions. 

During her remarks, Ruberto contended that the board used shoddy reasoning to arrive at its decision. By reversing its book donation practice, Ruberto suggested that the BOE inadvertently took decision-making authority out of the hands of librarians.

“I remain disappointed with your decision to no longer accept book donations,” Ruberto said. “None of you are experts in deciding which book donations to accept, you said, but there are experts who can do this — the librarians.”

Another point of contention for Ruberto was an argument made on July 28 during the public comments that there are more pressing matters for the board to consider than book donations. 

Pushing back against these charges, Ruberto suggested that access to reading materials lies at the core of any institution of learning.

“Yes, there are many important issues related to our children’s education, but the idea that the books made available to them isn’t one of them is ludicrous,” she said, adding, “As long as a book is age appropriate, I can’t imagine any book that young people should not have access to it.”

While Ruberto acknowledged that parents remain the ultimate arbiters for their children’s reading materials, she added that librarians also perform a vital function. According to her, school libraries are ideally inclusive spaces that should reflect the entire community’s values.

“Some parents may be troubled by what they see in the library, and then they may — and certainly should — monitor what their children are reading,” she said. “But school libraries aren’t just for them. They’re for everyone in the community.”

Jessica Ward, president of the board of education, responded to Ruberto’s public comments. The BOE president argued that the decision empowers the district’s librarians, offering these experts the freedom to stock the libraries with books of their choosing and without sway from the board.

“Our decision, as we explained last time, was made in consensus,” Ward said. “As you said, we’re not the experts on books. We want our librarians to pick the books in their libraries.”

Before the meeting adjourned, Ward and Ruberto debated whether the change of practice on book donations constituted a policy change. In attempting to settle this matter, Ward advised that she and the board would consult with their attorney and get back to Ruberto with a more detailed explanation.

The next meeting of the Rocky Point board of education is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19.

File photo by Giselle Barkley

Tensions swelled inside the Rocky Point High School auditorium during a special meeting of the Rocky Point school district board of education on Thursday, July 28.

In early July, the board reversed its longstanding practice regarding book donations, deciding to no longer accept books from the public. The controversy centers around a June donation made by district parent Allison Villafane, who donated several books exploring themes dealing with sexuality, gender identity and race during Pride Month.

“This past June, in keeping with my past practice, I have donated books to promote diversity, equity and inclusion,” she told the board. “These books were best sellers, approved by the library here.”

In an interview, Villafane shared the list of the seven titles that were included in the donation, saying these books were intended to be spread out across different schools throughout the district depending upon age appropriateness. The titles are:

  • “Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly 
  • “All Different and Beautiful: A Children’s Book about Diversity, Kindness, and Friendships” by Belle Belrose 
  • “Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger: Social Emotional Book for Kids about Diversity and Kindness” by Elizabeth Cole 
  • “Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water” by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson 
  • “Pink Is for Boys” by Robb Pearlman 
  • “The List of Things That Will Not Change” by Rebecca Stead

Jessica Ward, president of the board of education, defended the decision. She said the board did not take its decision lightly and that all five members of the board had arrived at its determination together.

Ward told the public that the decision was motivated by a basic lack of expertise on how to evaluate children’s literature.

“None of us — the five of us on the board — are experts in children’s literature,” Ward said. “None of us has a master’s degree in library science … so we thought it would be best for all of our schools to allow our librarians, who are the experts in children’s literature, to populate their libraries and their catalogs with books of their choosing.”

Villafane detailed her past practice of donating materials, saying she has made several rounds of donations over the years as each of her four children has moved through the school district. In the past, Villafane has donated materials regarding food allergies. In other years, they would focus on promoting diversity or compassion.

She said this most recent donation is not a significant departure from her past practice. Because the books were already in circulation in various school libraries throughout the district, Villafane believed she was performing a service to the school by making the approved books more accessible.

Villafane suggested the board was applying an arbitrary standard to her donation, asking if the board would apply this same standard to the donations of gifts such as piano keyboards and trumpets.

Responding to these charges, Ward said that the board’s decision “wasn’t necessarily in response to the books that you donated. It was in response to all books.” 

She added, “Our current policy says … that we may accept gifts, grants … as well as other merchandise. If there was something else [such as] a musical instrument or some other educational or instructional item that you or someone wanted to donate, then we would take that on a case-by-case basis, but we are not taking any donations of books.”

Along with Villafane, other members of the public joined in their criticism of the board’s decision. Ernestine Franco, a resident of Sound Beach, said the board did not apply reason to its decision and that it failed to properly consider the consequences.

“If it was just a change of practice, then they did it very badly,” she said in an interview. “That’s what makes me think it was a political move.” She added, “Even if they wanted to do what they did, there had to be some logic to it and there wasn’t.”

Bea Ruberto, also a Sound Beach resident, concurred with this assessment, arguing the decision was a product of hasty decision-making and primarily motivated by the board members’ political preferences.

“I am convinced that it is political,” Ruberto said in an interview. “I am also convinced that for them to do that, they didn’t look at the practice they had in the past on how to deal with and accept book donations.”

Despite criticism from the public, there were others who responded favorably. One such individual, identified as “Ms. Sarlo” in the meeting’s minutes, defended the decision. According to her, it is best for the board not to consider these materials as there is no universal agreement on their content. 

“I think that the decision was the correct one because … not everybody agrees with all of the books,” she said. “There are so many more important things that we need to be talking about that the board could be spending time on instead of book donations.”

Franco disagreed with this assessment, suggesting that it minimizes the issues at stake and offers a convenient excuse for the board to rid itself of accountability.

“I think [Sarlo] was trying to validate what happened by saying it wasn’t important,” Franco said, adding, “But what’s important, at least to me, is not the book but what the book stands for, which is education. … Instead of opening up to a very diverse atmosphere, they’re trying to close up the atmosphere to what kids are going to be exposed to.”

Villafane suggested that the board’s new practice on book donations violates common sense. She believes the board can correct course by adopting a new policy allowing the acceptance of books for titles that are already in circulation.

“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “There is a database of books that have been approved for distribution at various grade levels, so as long as the book you want to donate is within that system, you should feel free to donate it.”

The Rocky Point board of education will reconvene on Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m., where deliberations on book donations are likely to continue.