Tags Posts tagged with "Comsewogue Public Library"

Comsewogue Public Library

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The Comsewogue Public Library hosted a food drive as part of the SCLS’s annual Great Give Back event. All those who donated food also got to adopt a pumpkin. The library hosted other activities and community service opportunity, though many were based online due to the pandemic. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though, like so many things, the Comsewogue Public Library’s participation in the annual Great Give Back couldn’t go on like normal, residents and patrons still came out to donate to the needy.

The Suffolk County Cooperative Library System’s annual Great Give Back Event asks partnered libraries to allow patrons a day of opportunities for service-oriented experiences. This year, the Comsewogue Public Library hosted a food drive with all non-perishable food and items going to Long Island Cares. Anybody who showed also got to pick out a small pumpkin spread out on the library’s lawn outside the main door.

Nicole Cortes, the Children’s and Teen Services Librarian/Children’s Program Coordinator said about 30 people came on Saturday and more on Sunday to drop off food. Each were given a pumpkin for their troubles. Those boxes are normally located in the library itself, and Cortes said they are regularly filled by their patrons.

“Sometimes we’ve done fall festivals, other years we’ve done volunteer fairs, this year it was a little bit trickier but we not only wanted to share ways for our patrons to give back, but also to give them something because it has been a hard year,” she said.

In addition to the food drive, the library presented ways for young people to claim community service hours virtually, whether it was sending encouragement and/or gratitude cards to Mather Hospital, becoming a pen pal to a resident of the Atria South Setauket senior living community in Centereach or even spending an hour to draw out a positive message to brighten somebody’s day using chalk.

The library also offered a list of local organizations adults could volunteer with, whether it is the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook or the Sweetbriar Nature Center.

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Comsewogue Library's Green Team Co-chairs, on ends, and advisor, center, from left, From left to right: Danielle Minard, Debbie Engelhardt, Debbie Bush. Photo from Comsewogue Library

It seems that the trend of going green hasn’t yet stalled, but the Comsewogue Public Library is looking to make itself a model to the larger community, as it was recently certified by Green Business Partnership.

Comsewogue Adult Services & Outreach Librarian Danielle Minard said the certification was a near-two year process, starting when the library was looking to reduce waste, cut down their carbon footprint as well as become a model for the community. The certification process has been completed by multiple businesses, but there is a long list of New York state libraries who have done it as well.

The aim of the certification is to reduce a business’, or in this case a library’s, carbon footprint, reduce waste and increase conservation practices. Comsewogue took a inventory of its energy use and recycling, and took such actions as adding reusable flatware in the breakroom, converting from plastic to paper tablecloths, using copy paper from post-consumer recycled material and started the process of converting any old lighting that dies or breaks into more sustainable LED lighting, just to name a few. 

The library has also tried to clearly label and separate waste into separate bins, including one for paper waste and another for plastic bottles and cans. 

In the future, the library looks to continue reducing their waste and create a so-called public education garden.

“I hope what we’ve done will be a good model for the community,” Minard said.

Library leaders also said there’s a significant economic impact as well for going green. Library Director Debbie Engelhardt said the library could save taxpayers through general reductions in spending, as in saving on electricity costs and generally having to buy less if the focus is on sustainable products. That’s not to say the library won’t have increases in costs due to inflations and benefits increasing, and the scenario from year to year is, by its nature, going to change.

Though the library also received a PSEG Long Island rebate based on the energy efficiency of their new HVAC units, the director noted, which helped offset the initial cost for their green initiative. The library has also received state Library Construction Aid grants for their new roof and HVAC replacements.

“While the Library has always operated in a responsible manner, our team was excited to learn through participation in the Green Business Certification Program that we could achieve even more in terms of financial savings, equitable practices, and environmental impacts,” Engelhardt said in a statement. “The Program’s tools and takeaways have changed for the better the way we think and do things, and that benefits all our stakeholders.” 

The action is also the first step in the process of being certified by New York Library Association’s Sustainable Libraries Initiative, which looks to make most if not all of the state’s hundreds of libraries focused on sustainability in the next few years.

Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station hosts a flu shot clinic on Thursday, Oct. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A pharmacist from Genoa Health will be on-site to administer flu shots. The event will be held outdoors, weather permitting. Bring your insurance card. Open to all. Questions? Call 631-928-1212 and ask for Adult Services.

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Wendol received a prolomation from State Sen. Ken LaValle, from left, Kevin Verbesey, Director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Edward Wendol, Founding Director of Comsewogue Public Library Richard Lusak, Ken LaValle’s aid Jeff Kito; Comsewogue library director Debbie Engelhardt. Photos by Debbie Engelhardt

For Ed Wendol, of Port Jefferson Station, time is not marked in years, but in decades.

Ed Wendol has spent 48 years on the Comsewogue Public Library board of trustees. Photo by Debbie Engelhardt

How long was he a teacher in the Middle Country school district? Nearly three decades. How long was he on the Comsewogue Public Library board? Two years shy of five decades. 

On his last day on the library board, the institution’s administration and a few lifelong friends held a short reception for Wendol to celebrate him serving his community, and Suffolk libraries, for year after year after year.

Now Wendol, 78, is planning to move down to Florida to be closer to his family. He, like so many other Long Islanders who are part of the exodus down to places like the Sunshine State or North Carolina is doing it with a heavy heart, knowing he’s moving from the place he has lived in and cared for over the past 50 years.

“What I’m particularly proud of, of being a trustee of the Comsewogue library, is that I’ve been elected to that position over the years,” Wendol said. “The public to me is important to recognize what we’ve been trying to accomplish with the library, and to me it’s the cultural center of the Comsewogue community.”

He is a past winner of TBR News Media’s Person of the Year, in 2003, for his work in Civics, specifically the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association when he vehemently opposed the closure of the DMV location in PJS. That DMV still stands today, partially thanks to his activism. Alongside his work in the civic, he has been an active member of the Polish-American Independent Club in PJS. 

It’s rare for people to have such an immediate reaction to hearing about a community member simply taking the well-worn trek to sunnier pastures, but Wendol’s work with libraries goes well above and beyond what’s normally expected with a library board trustee.

Richard Lusak, of Port Jefferson, was Comsewogue library’s first director and stayed in the position from 1966 to 2003. He saw Wendol as one of the most instrumental people for the library’s longtime success. 

When the library first came into being back in 1966, it was conceived to serve the residents of the school district, forming a five-member library board setting up in a rented 1,000-square-foot trailer a year later. Wendol had moved to the area from Queens in 1967, learning to live in a near-rural place like PJS where the sound of crickets kept city slickers like him up at night. He had long been a lover of libraries and books, he himself being an English teacher. Shortly after the Comsewogue library’s creation there was turnover on the library board, and that’s when Wendol stepped forward, being elected to the board in short order in 1972.

Throughout the years, Lusak said the venerable board member became a beacon for what a trustee could be, almost epitomizing everything the library trustee handbook — yes, it is a real book — stood for. While Wendol was working full time, he took night classes and gained a degree in library science, for what he described as wanting to be more knowledgeable and more helpful in the month-to-month decision-making process.

“He was instrumental in keeping everything on an even plane,” Lusak said. “He was a role model for the other board members.”

Current library director Debbie Engelhardt said that the past eight years in her position have been effective and “gratifying” thanks to Wendol’s steady presence and positive attitude.

“Ed understands well and is a true model of excellence in trusteeship,” she said. “Ed is steadfast, a voice of reason and has vast experience. He speaks his mind and is also a great listener. Ed’s positive influence helps us to keep moving forward. The healthy board dynamic Ed helped shape will remain.”

In his time on the library board, he also came to be recognized regionally for his service. He has several times been elected to the Suffolk Cooperative Library System board of trustees, helping oversee all libraries in the Town of Brookhaven. He has also previously served as that board’s president. Doing that he said his priority was to make all the libraries from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket to Longwood Public Library come together to benefit the whole in their shared mission.

“Ed Wendol has been, for 48 years, the model of what a library trustee and public servant should be,” said Kevin Verbesey, SCLS director. “Ed always understood the critical role that a public library plays in the educational, intellectual and cultural life of a community. He was always informed, polite, active and firm in his support for and belief in libraries. Everyone in Suffolk County who cares about public libraries owes a debt of gratitude to Ed Wendol.”

Along with being active in Port Jefferson Station, for 27 years he was an English teacher in the Middle Country school district. In 2019, Wendol came across a host of copies of Newfield High School’s newspaper, The Quadrangle, sitting in his attic. The dates ran from 1970 to 1976, when he was the newspaper club’s adviser. The ex-Middle Country teacher donated his large collection of papers to the Middle Country Public Library for it all to be digitized.

It’s been a long ride for Wendol, and looking back from how the Comsewogue library progressed, first from its rented trailer location and now into a center where he loves to note that it serves everyone from preschool age all the way up to senior citizen. Libraries now are touchstones for local events, for helping people navigate an increasingly digital world, and all the while still giving people access to his beloved books. Next on the libraries’ plates, he said, is to emphasize culture, and offer people more real-world experiences on some kind of excursion, even if it takes them away from a library’s brick-and-mortar location.

“I think it was a fabulous thing we were able to accomplish,” Wendol said. “I think the aspect of people coming into the library, and wanting to come into the library … I’m happy to say with Debbie Engelhardt and my fellow trustees on the board, we are open.”

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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.

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The SLSC's Suffolk Libraries Empowering Discovery bus will be there Sept. 1 for the Comsewogue Library's Census Awareness Day. Photo from SLSC

The Comsewogue Public Library is trying to spread the word that every person counts.

The Comsewogue Library is welcoming community members to its Census Awareness Day event Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Library staff, Suffolk County Library System staff, and census representatives will be working together to assist community members in filling out the census. 

Library staff said this is a chance for local residents to receive information about the census, be counted, learn about the library, and to enjoy giveaways. 

A grant from Suffolk County and the Long Island Community Foundation is allowing the Suffolk Cooperative Library System to support local libraries by deploying its Livebrary.com outreach bus, also known as the Suffolk Libraries Empowering Discovery vehicle, to events sponsored by local libraries throughout the month of September. The SLED will also be in attendance at the Comsewogue event.

The public libraries in Suffolk are all working with their local communities to ensure that all Suffolk County residents are counted for the 2020 US Census. The census count has a direct impact on funds that state and local governments receive for such programs as those that support highway planning and construction, local schools, and firefighters. 

In a previous article by TBR News Media, statistics showed that many places in Long Island were behind where they were in previous years for filling out the census. New York as a whole is still behind where it was in its self response rate compared to 2010 by close to 4%, according to U.S. Census data as of Aug. 27. New York is also behind the national average in its self response rate as well.

“Our message is that completing the census matters now more than ever,” said Comsewogue Public Library Director Debra Engelhardt. “The census helps shape your community and can personally impact you and yours. Federal funding and representation are at stake. Census data is confidential and cannot be used against you. The Library is proud to partner with SCLS in the census awareness campaign.”

To learn more about Comsewogue Public Library’s Census Awareness Day event, contact the Library’s Adult Services Department at 631-928-1212, option 3.

 

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.

Sei Ramen in East Setauket is just one Asian restaurant on Long Island that said business is down since the start of the coronavirus panic. Photo by David Luces

The uncertainty of the coronavirus has led many people to avoid public places that see a lot of foot traffic. Some have resorted to hunkering down at home. With the first confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in Suffolk County this past week, despite efforts to sanitize their locations, some local businesses owners have been seeing the impact directly.

Since the outbreak began in China late last year, Asian American and Chinese restaurants and businesses have seen a decline in the number of customers. 

The Great Wall Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach is just one of several Asian establishments impacted by irrational fears over the coronavirus. Photo from Google Maps

Kevin Ma, co-owner of Sei Ramen in East Setauket, acknowledged the drop-off in business. 

Business “for area restaurants, it’s going down,” he said. “I have friends that run their own businesses and they are going through the same thing.”

Since opening last month, Ma believes they have been doing OK and hopes to see an uptick in customers once the coronavirus scare dies down.

“All we can do is let customers know the food is safe [to eat],” he said. “We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”  

Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the fears of coronavirus are affecting businesses in the area. 

“I spoke to two Chinese restaurants [that are chamber members], they don’t want this to affect them,” he said. 

Pollakusky said misinformation on the coronavirus has caused the reduction in business, especially to the new owners of the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach. 

“The fears of the people toward Chinese food are irrational — people shouldn’t be afraid of eating local,” he said. “The Great Wall in Sound Beach has new owners and they are very excited to be a part of this community.”

The executive director said all businesses are taking the proper precautions and safety measures to make sure its facilities are clean. 

Libraries also see a lot of visitors and are trying to stay a step ahead.  

Ted Gutmann, director at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, said they are closely monitoring the situation. 

“We take the health and the safety of our patrons very seriously,” he said. “We have ordered additional cleaning supplies to clean surfaces, computers, keyboards and other areas.”

Gutmann said if patrons feel sick, he would advise them not to come to the library. 

“We have tried to be proactive, we haven’t really seen a decrease in attendance at the library,” the director said.

At this point, Emma Clark has not decided to cancel any upcoming events but has had internal discussions about the problem, should the overall situation gets worse. 

Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, had similar sentiments. 

“We haven’t noticed a change in attendance,” she said. “We are trying to be proactive, just washing our hands is part of our daily routine.” 

Engelhardt said they already had numerous sanitizers installed throughout the building. 

“We increased signage reminding employees and patrons to wash their hands,” she said. “If employees are sick, we have told them to stay home — we are monitoring information from the state and county. We are trying to stay educated, we have a responsibility as a public service building.”  

“We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”

— Kevin Ma

Several local groups have been canceling events. The Three Village Democratic Club, Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Community Trust have all canceled or pushed off events out of a sense of caution. 

Brookhaven Town has released an executive order canceling all town events for senior citizens due to coronavirus concerns. Those events are suspended beginning March 12. Meals on Wheels deliveries will continue to homebound seniors, while those previously served by congregate nutrition programs at senior centers will be offered meal delivery at home.

Residents can call 631-451-8696 for more information.

Despite the preparation, other businesses said they haven’t seen much of an impact so far.

Bobby Suchan, general manager of Port Jeff Bowl, said besides less people coming into bowling alleys in general, they haven’t seen a change in business as of now. 

“We have installed more hand sanitizer in the building and just making sure everything is clean, which is something we always do,” he said. 

Charlie Ziegler, director of operations at Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, said it’s business as usual at the hotel. 

“It’s not having an effect [on us] — the number of customers coming is the same,” he said. 

Despite that, Ziegler said they will continue to make sure everything in the building is cleaned and sanitized. 

“We had a meeting recently with the staff and we told them to make sure to wash their hands constantly,” he said. “We want to keep areas clean … we are disinfecting areas like the great room, telephones and door handles.”

Ziegler said they don’t anticipate any further disruptions from the coronavirus situation. 

Last Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Comsewogue Public Library, people from all over Long Island clutched broken antiques, busted electronics, ripped clothing and many, many battered lamps in their laps. Surrounding them were tables where fixers, experts and simple tinkerers plugging away at all things broken, trying their best to make them whole again.

Richard Feldman, a retired teacher, was one of the volunteers, called “coaches,” helping people fix their items. He’s a tinkerer, the kind of guy who could make you a homemade hammer from stained and lacquered paint stirrers and a head made from junk he found on the side of the road.

“You can fix anything, as long as you know what’s wrong.”

— Paul Orfin

Feldman was helping Centereach woman Blanche Casey open up a small antique safe. It had been closed after too many young hands of her grandchildren had fiddled with it. Casey had taken such an item to other repair shops, but none knew what to do with it. Instead at the Repair Cafe, Feldman fiddled with the safe until it finally revealed its hoard of pennies that spilled out onto the table. Casey thanked Feldman several times, but the tinkerer said sometimes such repairs require a little divine intervention.

“Sometimes, with things like this, it’s just luck,” he said. “It’s just pure fun, and I enjoy it. It’s why I’m here.” 

This is not the first time Repair Cafe Long Island has come to Comsewogue. For the past several years a small group of volunteer enthusiasts have helped save broken items from dumpsters and the landfill. 

Laurie Farber, of Wyandanch, has run the LI chapter of Repair Cafe since 2007, originally hosting her first at the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch. Under Starflower Experiences Inc., a nonprofit, she has since hosted more all across Long Island, east and west, the North Shore and South Shore, and everything in between. This year she has more cafes planned than the past several years. She has events coming up in both March and April, including one at the Elwood Public Library April 20.

The first repair cafe was started by a Dutch environmentalist in the Netherlands in 2009. The nonprofit Repair Cafe International Foundation now has 16,000 chapters across 35 countries. Farber started her branch even before there was one in New York City.

“The items that come in are usually of sentimental value,” she said. “People go home with something that may have been sitting in the closet for 20 years and it may have been a simple thing to fix.”

Though many of the volunteers see such repair as a hobby, several had quite the resume. Neal Fergenson is a chief electrical engineer for a military contractor. His wife saw an ad asking for people to volunteer their time, and now he’s been at it for two years. 

Just one of his projects that day was helping a woman fix her stereo system. The device had worked fine for over 30 years until this year, when the tuning knob simply stopped working. That Saturday Fergenson was busy jury-rigging a way to get the knob to connect to a post on the motherboard.

“We’re a throw-away society,” he said. “It gives people a chance to recycle things.”

Paul Orfin is an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory who works in the collider accelerator department, but that Saturday he was more known as the “lamp whiz.” The engineer had originally heard of the event through his local library in Patchogue.

At last year’s event, he had even put his engineering skills through their practice when he helped the library fix its 3-D printer it had on display.

“You can fix anything, as long as you know what’s wrong,” Orfin said.

Not everything can be fixed. Sometimes the items are damaged beyond repair, or, as is common these days, the necessary parts are simply unavailable.

“We already have a garbage problem, and just buying things is not always the answer.”

— Laurie Farber

A movement has been growing all across the county, called the right to repair. Car manufacturers have largely worked under a memorandum, based on a 2012 Massachusetts law providing all owners with documents and information to allow people to do their own repairs, but such ideas have not made their way into the tech sector. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed by Congress in 1998, electronics manufacturers have largely hindered or otherwise completely forbid people from tinkering with their devices. Some states have passed right to repair laws, but the New York Legislature failed to pass one in 2015.

Such anti-consumer practices have even found their way to farm equipment, with farm utilities manufacturer John Deere using a heavy hand to stop farmers from modifying or even fixing their equipment without taking it to a dealer.

Farber said such practices are just another example why these repair cafes have blossomed all across the world. Another, and it is especially important for Long Island, is to stop much of the products from ending up in the trash. 

“I think it’s a shame, we already have a garbage problem, and just buying things is not always the answer,” she said.

Gabriele Guerra, a real estate agent from Dix Hills, traveled all the way to the Comsewogue library for the chance to fix a lamp she found at the side of the road, a marble statue of a Spanish conquistador. 

In 2024, the Town of Brookhaven plans to close and cap its landfill. Once that happens, nobody is sure what will happen.

Though Guerra said there is one sure thing, that people will need to think about throwing less things away.

“Everybody’s throwing things out — instead fix them, recycle, reuse, don’t dump it on the street.”