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Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

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Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket hosts a Community Shred Day in its parking lot on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Protect your privacy and get rid of clutter. A shredding truck from A Shred Away, Inc., will be in the library’s parking lot for on-site shredding of personal documents.  Please NO plastic, carbon paper, hanging files, red well folders, cardboard, newspapers or magazines will be accepted. Clips and staples are fine to put through the shredder. NO wet papers, and please take any boxes, bags, etc., back home with you. All paper collected will be recycled at a certified paper mill. Please wear a mask. No registration required. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

Three Village Historical Society’s Director of Education Donna Smith and historian Beverly C. Tyler at last year’s event. Photo from TVHS

Margo Arceri first heard about George Washington’s Setauket spies from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong, in the early 1970s. Arceri lights up when talking about her favorite spy, Anna Smith Strong.

“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-granddaughter, originally told me about the Culper Spy Ring when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong III. One of her stories was about Nancy (Anna Smith Strong’s nickname) and her magic clothesline. My love of history grew from there,” she said.

Seven years ago Arceri approached the Three Village Historical Society’s President Steve Hintze and the board about conducting walking, biking and kayaking tours while sharing her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution.

Today, Arceri runs Tri-Spy Tours in the Three Village area, which follows in the actual footsteps of the Culper Spy Ring. “I wanted to target that 20- to 60-year-old active person,” she said.  “I have to thank AMC’s miniseries ‘Turn’ because 80 percent of the people who sign up for the tour do so because of that show,” she laughs.

It was during one of those tours that Arceri came up with the idea of having a Culper Spy Day, a day to honor the members of Long Island’s brave Patriot spy ring who helped change the course of history and helped Washington win the Revolutionary War.

“Visiting places like the Brewster House, which is owned by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the grave site of genre artist William Sidney Mount at the Setauket Presbyterian Church cemetery (whose paintings are at The Long Island Museum) and the Country House, which was built in the 1700s,” Arceri thought “there has to be a day designated to celebrating all these organizations in the Three Villages and surrounding areas; where each of us can give our little piece of the story and that’s how Culper Spy Day developed.”

After a successful five-year run, plans were underway for the sixth annual Culper Spy Day when the pandemic hit. At first the event was canceled out an abundance of caution but now has been reinvented and will be presented virtually on Facebook Live on Sept. 12 and 13 to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.

The Three Village area is full of hidden intrigue and stories of how America’s first spy ring came together secretly to provide General George Washington the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.

Over the course of the weekend, you will have the chance to visit many of the cultural organizations from years past who will share their story, including the Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours, Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University, Preservation Long Island, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Drowned Meadow Cottage, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, Ketcham Inn Foundation and more in a virtual format.

Join Margo Arceri from Tri-Spy Tours live from the Village Green on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Meet Big Bill the Tory live at the Sherwood-Jayne House.

Take a Virtual Spies! exhibit tour with TVHS historian Bev Tyler.

Visit the famous Brewster House with Ward Melville Heritage Organization Education Director Deborah Boudreau.

View a resource guide to everything Culper Spy Day courtesy of Emma Clark Library.

Watch a short film on Long Island’s South Shore from the Ketcham Inn Foundation.

Make your very own periscope with Gallery North.

Read up on the Revolutionary War History from the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

Look back at the festivities from 2016 Culper Spy Day.

Don’t miss the five part virtual spy tour series with historian Bev Tyler.

Listen to the lecture “Spies in the Archive: A history of two George Washington Culper Spy Ring letters presented by Kristen Nyitray Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries.

Learn about SBU’s two Culper Spy Ring letters and access images and transcripts Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries

Dive into George Washington & the Culper Spy Ring A comprehensive research and study guide Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries

Find out who Agent 355 was from historian Bev Tyler.

Listen to the story of Nancy’s Magic Clothesline, written by Kate Wheeler Strong, and told by Margo Arceri.

No registration is necessary. For more information, visit www.tvhs.org/virtualculperday.

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.

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Pentimento in Stony Brook Village Center is offering 50 percent off meals for hospital and EMT workers in the Three Village area. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Three Village residents, business owners and community leaders are finding ways to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chuyu Liu, co-principal of the Center for Chinese Learning at Stony Brook, left, and Shaorui Li of the Long Island Chinese American Association, right, present masks to Dave Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District. Photo by Chang Duan

While Stony Brook University was chosen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for a drive-through testing center for the virus, along with an external facility for extra beds at the campus, other help has been provided in the area.

The Three Village Civic Association has been emailing members with any updates it receives to ensure residents are informed. In a March 23 email to members, civic association President Jonathan Kornreich wrote of “countless acts of kindness and compassion, large and small” in the community.

Among those acts have been the Della Pietra family creating a community challenge to raise $500,000 for Stony Brook University Hospital. According to SBU’s website, the family is pledging a $250,000 dollar-for-dollar match. The funds raised will go toward critical supplies and treatments at the hospital. At press time, the challenge had nearly 650 supporters donating more than $330,000.

Kornreich said in the email he also noticed residents doing good things in small ways.

“Even in supermarkets I’ve seen people sharing and taking a moment to show some kindness to stressed-out neighbors,” he said.

The civic association also announced that the Three Village Central School District consolidated its food pantries into one location at the North Country Administration Center in Stony Brook. Those who need to access the pantry, or would like to donate, can call Anita Garcia at 631-730-4010. As always, nonperishables and toiletries will be accepted, and gift cards for supermarkets and gas stations are also needed. Civic association volunteers picked up bags of donated items for the food pantry March 25 from residents and have pledged to do so as long as necessary.

Extra steps to help out SFD

The Long Island Chinese American Association donated 120 KN95 masks to the Setauket Fire District last week.

In a March 16 Facebook message, the fire department asked residents to let dispatchers know if there is anyone in their home who is under quarantine when calling to report a house fire. The information will allow responders to ensure they have the proper protective equipment.

Dave Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District, said first responders are in the same position as the health care industry when it comes to the shortage of personal protective equipment.

“We are in unprecedented times with the way we are using and reusing all types of PPE and any donations we receive are very much appreciated,” he said.

Sterne said the district was grateful for the Long Island Chinese American Association’s donation as well as some masks from resident Mark Andrews.

Emma Clark library stays connected with community

While Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is closed until further notice due the ongoing pandemic, it still has numerous services to offer the community. The library announced in a press release Monday it will offer remote technology help for patrons who need to set up communication options like FaceTime, Zoom and Google Hangouts. They can also help remotely with office applications, web browsers, Roku and Fire Stick devices and with general support with mobile devices, phones, tablets and laptops.

Cardholders can send an email to [email protected] and include their library barcode number and phone number.  A library employee will call back to schedule one-on-one telephone help.

For those who don’t have a library card, the library is also providing temporary digital cards that will allow them to access some of Emma Clark’s online resources including OverDrive and Hoopla for eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies and music. Also, temporary digital cardholders will be able to access databases and the classes in Learning Express. People can go to www.emmaclark.org and find “Get a Library Card” at the bottom of the page to sign up.

Library director, Ted Gutmann, said in an email it’s important for the library to stay in touch with the community.

“A big part of what the library does at all time is connect people with information, with resources, with help, with each other,” he said. “Our virtual time with a tech service is just one example of how the library is reaching out to the community in this period of social distancing, when it’s so easy to feel disconnected and unsure about things.  We’re asking our patrons to come to us like they always have. It may not be face-to-face, but it’s still person-to-person.”

The director added when residents use the library’s Time with a Tech service they will be speaking with the library’s technology librarian or IT manager, or “real people, real voices — not some anonymous ‘someone will get back to you.’ I think this is reassuring, and I hope many of our patrons will feel that way too.”  

Businesses adapt to new climate

Many business owners are coming up with new ideas in order to stay open. One option many dance schools and martial arts studios have taken is creating videos and making them available online for their students.

Nick Panebianco from Alchemy Martial Arts and Fitness of East Setauket last week spent two days working practically nonstop creating 40 videos to put on his school’s website. He said it was something he was thinking about for a couple of months but didn’t get a chance to do, and he knew now was the time to create the online lessons.

The studio owner said during the pandemic he knows children will be spending more time with their families. In the videos, he shows parents how to use everyday items such as oven mitts and pillows to help with a student’s practice.

“I basically teach the parents how to teach the kids,” he said.

Panebianco added that he goes over drills that he normally does in classes and points out ways to adapt to different body types. At press time, he already had 50 subscribers made up of current and former students. He has extended the invitation to watch the videos to community members too. The service is free and can be accessed by going to the studio’s website and signing up.

“It’s pretty cool so far,” he said. “People are sending me videos of their kids working with them. I’m very excited right now. I want to keep adding to it.”

With students currently out of class, he said he feels it’s important to keep them active instead of looking at their mobile devices all day, adding that the videos can also be helpful in general for those who can’t afford or don’t have time to do a full class at the martial arts studio.

As for the Three Village community, the Port Jefferson Station resident said he’s seen many businesses coming up with creative ideas.

“People are adapting fast,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

Lisa Cusumano, co-owner and general manager of Pentimento restaurant in Stony Brook Village Center said even though the restaurant had to lay off most of its staff, they are still providing curbside pickup and delivery to those who are homebound.

Cusumano said they are also offering 50 percent off meals for all hospital and EMT workers in the Three Village area who show an ID as they realize these community members are on the front lines fighting the pandemic.

“We’re trying to do anything to help,”
she said.

Cusumano said when she first heard of the coronavirus she bought more cleaning supplies than usual, and the staff cleaned more regularly than average starting weeks ago, even wiping menus after each use.

She said the restaurant, which has been in business for 26 years, is taking it day by day and as long as they have the ability to open they will.

“As long as we have products and people working, we’ll take care of the community as best as we can,” Cusumano said.

We would love to hear about what readers are seeing in our community. Let us know about residents or business owners who are dealing with COVID-19 pandemic in innovative ways or helping out their neighbors by emailing [email protected]

Last year’s first-place winners Nicole Xiao and Juliet Weschke pose with their books. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library announced the winners for the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award. The annual contest invites junior high and high school students in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book.

First Prize (Grades 7–9 category): “Oliver’s Walk” by Celia Gordon (eighth grade, homeschooler)

First Prize (Grades 10–12 category): “Your Part” by Rebecca Blumenthal (11th grader at Ward Melville High School)

Second Prize (Grades 7–9 category): “The Knight and the Monster” written by Ricky Herling and illustrated by Ashton Hopkins (both 8th graders at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School)

Second Prize (Grades 10–12 category): “How Tom Talks” by Riley Meckley (10th grader at Ward Melville High School)

For “Oliver’s Walk,” Celia Gordon used watercolors to illustrate the story of a baby bird and mother bird taking a stroll together. The bird uses his imagination and pretends that the puddle is really a river or that a single pink flower turns into a big bouquet for his mom. “Your Part” by Rebecca Blumenthal gives examples of what one can do to be a good person for the earth and for others. It’s told in a sing-song voice, which makes it a perfect read aloud book.

The winners will be celebrated at a private awards ceremony at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library Monday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. At the reception, each first-prize award recipient will receive a $400 scholarship, and each second-prize award recipient will receive a $100 scholarship. The newly bound books — made into hardcover by the library — will be presented to the winners and copies will be added to the library’s Local Focus Collection. Light refreshments will be served at the reception, and The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village business, will donate desserts.

Each entry in the contest could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort of an author and an illustrator. The contest was divided into two grade categories, grades 7 through 9 and grades 10 through 12, with one first-prize winner and one second-prize winner selected from each group.

This award is given in memory of Helen Stein Shack by her family. As a teacher, Shack was committed to the education of children, and she especially loved literature written for them. She was a frequent visitor to Emma Clark library where, even in retirement, she kept current with the latest children’s books. The library is grateful to the children of the late Shack who have established a substantial endowment with the library to cover the cost of the prizes.

Past ceremonies have had library trustees, teachers and top school district administrators, as well as elected officials from New York State, Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven, all in attendance to honor the winners and present them with certificates.

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is located at 120 Main St., Setauket.

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.

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

Libraries across Suffolk County will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the internet has connected the world, libraries across Suffolk County have never been as linked as they are today with both patrons and each other.

The written word is strong, despite claims to the contrary, especially with the proliferation of e-books and audiobooks. Suffolk County’s Library System allows for libraries to request books from fellow libraries and gives access to multitudes of e-books and audiobooks alike, all free on request, barring a wait list.

Some publishing companies are not happy with the status quo.

Macmillan Publishers, an international corporation and one of the top five publishing houses across the globe, announced its intent to limit the number of copies allowed to libraries to one for the first eight weeks of release starting Nov. 1. After those eight weeks, they can purchase “expiring” e-book copies which need to be re-purchased after two years or 52 lends.

The Port Jefferson Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

While this decision has rocked libraries across the country, in Suffolk County, as the interlibrary program and e-book lending is handled by the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, that will mean one copy of an e-book for the entire system, according to Kevin Verbesey, director of the county library system. Just one e-book license for the whole of Suffolk and its near 1.5 million residents for the first eight weeks of its release.

To add some perspective, Verbesey said a hot new title could have thousands of residents on a wait list for the title, and the county library system usually tries to have one copy of said book for every two or three people requesting it. Like any anticipated piece of media, new and highly anticipated titles are most often sought and bought in those first eight weeks. Following that, barring renewed interest from something like a movie deal, attention begins to wane. Basically, the library system, which would usually purchase hundreds of licenses of that book, will effectively be restricted from having any. 

In socioeconomic terms, Verbesey said it means people who can afford it can buy a book. Those who can’t afford it will have their access restricted.

“In some parts of the county where there’s not great socioeconomic need, people have the option to ‘press buy’ and buy it for $12, but that’s not the case everywhere,” Verbesey said. “Rich people can have it, but poor people can’t.”

The North Shore is one of Suffolk County’s heaviest concentration of library users, the county library system director said. Those patrons could see some of the biggest impact of this decision.

Debbie Engelhardt, the Comsewogue Public Library director, said her patrons are savvy and know when books are set to hit the street, and they depend on the library to have e-book copies available.

North Shore Libray will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a long history of working very hard to get things into people’s hands as quickly as we can,” she said. “Think about a tiny little library someplace, they can buy one, and then all of Suffolk County can buy one. It just doesn’t seem equitable.”

Engelhardt said libraries often have deals to purchase books cheaper than retail price through deals with publishers. They will also create lease agreements to gather numerous copies of whatever is popular at the time, so they are not later burdened with multiple copies of that same tome. 

Ted Gutmann, the director of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, also pointed to the interlibrary loan system, which means not every library will need to purchase every book as long as it’s available nearby. 

E-books, on the other hand, are purchased by libraries for sometimes five times its original asking price. A regular e-book could cost around $12. A library or library system will purchase it at around $50 or $60, according to Verbesey. This is because libraries need to buy the licensing agreement of the copy in order to lend it to multiple people over the course of its license before the agreement expires in a few years. Each publisher has different policies on how long the licenses last and what is the cost for relicensing a product. 

The Suffolk library system has an annual budget of $14 million, with $4 million being spent directly on e-books and for the services of Overdrive, an application used by libraries to distribute their electronic media. E-books currently make up approximately one of every four checkout items from libraries in Suffolk. 

Despite the price of these books, Verbesey said they are happy to purchase what can be hundreds of licenses of that one e-book if there’s demand. This new policy would make it pointless to purchase any copies.

Macmillan did not respond to a request for comment, but in its original July 25 letter to Macmillan authors and agents announcing the change, CEO John Sargent wrote, “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an e-book for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American e-book reader is starting to lean heavily toward free … Our new terms are designed to protect the value of your books during their first format publication. But they also ensure that the mission of libraries is supported. They honor the libraries’ archival mandate and they reduce the cost and administrative burden associated with e-book lending. We are trying to address the concerns of all parties.”

The changes came after the corporation tested a 16-week embargo with e-books from its subsidiary Tor Publishing, concluding e-book lending had a negative impact on sales.

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overdrive CEO Steve Potash condemned the move, calling the company’s original test data faulty adding that very few Tor e-books are available in public library catalogs. He pointed to other studies that showed libraries had no material impact on e-book sales.

Authors published under MacMillan include romance author Nora Roberts, young adult fantasy based in African myth Tomi Adeyemi, and even famous and deceased authors such as C.S. Lewis. The company is also set to publish whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s memoirs this month, which is sure to become a hotly requested item.

And though the libraries have no control over the publisher’s requests, some expect the onus to fall on the individual libraries themselves. 

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in e-book format, it’s the library — not the publisher — that feels the heat,” said American Library Association President Wanda Brown in a July 25 statement. “It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs,” she added.

Engelhardt pointed to data from the national Library Journal’s Generational Reading Survey for 2019, which showed 42 percent of those surveyed purchased the same book they borrowed from the library, and 70 percent bought another book of the same author of a book they borrowed. She added libraries are some of the biggest promoters for individual books, authors and literacy in general, and Macmillan may only be hurting its own brand.

While the limitation on e-book lending won’t be in effect until November, libraries are already preparing to tell their patrons why Macmillan books won’t be available electronically. 

“We’re going to have to explain the publisher is not working with local libraries,” she said.