Tags Posts tagged with "Libraries"

Libraries

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket. Photo by Elyse Sutton

By Nancy Marr

I have heard many people remark that libraries have become irrelevant. E-books, Google, and the internet can answer all our questions, saving taxpayers money and freeing up buildings for other uses. But is that true?

In the eighteenth century, the first step toward sharing books came with subscription libraries, which were owned and managed by members who paid an annual subscription fee. The first of these in the United States, still extant and called the Library Company of Philadelphia, was established in 1790 by Benjamin Franklin and his friends, who created the Company by pooling their books to make them available to all the members of the Company. Other subscription libraries continued through the mid-nineteenth century for men who could afford to pay for them, and many are still in existence today.  

Circulating libraries, often started by publishers of books that were more “popular” than those selected by the subscription libraries, made books available to people who could not afford to join a subscription library. The success of the subscription and circulating libraries probably retarded the growth of public libraries as we know them.

The social atmosphere of the subscription libraries satisfied many and others, women, in particular, could obtain the books about romance that they liked that they expected  would not be available in public libraries.  Community libraries grew in number, often starting as collections by wealthy readers. By 1935, libraries served 35 percent of the American people depending on local taxes or donations to maintain them. 

Andrew Carnegie was the spark that spread libraries across the United States with his donations. In 1899 he granted 5.2 million dollars to the New York Public Library to build a network of 67 branch libraries in the five boroughs. The city provided sites for the libraries and enough money to provide staff. Small towns received $10,000 for each library and had to provide $1,000 a year for maintenance. 

Although in principle libraries saw themselves as providing works of history, geography, and technical and scientific books, in the 1890’s libraries reported that 65 to 90 percent of books that were borrowed were works of fiction. The American Library Association (ALA), formed in 1876, offered a series of guides for small libraries.

The ALA, in response to demands to purge books that were anti-American in the Chicago library in 1939, issued a statement affirming the librarians’ right to choose what books should be in their collection. With the onset of Cold War anxieties, demands that librarians sign loyalty oaths split the ALA until the Supreme Court decided that Congress could ban only material “utterly without redeeming social importance.”  

To support the public libraries and help them provide the best in library service, organizations like the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in New York were formed. It expands the services of the 51 member libraries in Suffolk, runs the inter-library loan system, digitizes newspapers and other documents, helps with resource sharing and technical proficiency, and supports services to special client groups. 

Many local libraries have stepped into the role of community centers — providing meeting places for organizations, offering technical assistance to patrons with reference and computer questions, sponsoring book groups and classes in English, gardening, and cooking. Some libraries have hired part-time social workers and financial counselors, providing help to those who request it. Many have assembled useful tools for patrons to borrow, as well as seed collections for home gardens, kits and equipment for bird viewing and sports activities. 

Recently, some taxpayers have asserted that they, and others who agree with them, should have more of a say about what books are available, and what subjects are taught in public schools. They support library and school board members who have the same opinion, and are likely to oppose passing the library and school budgets. Although early librarians, thinking they were protecting readers, chose only those books that they approved of, they now follow the position of the ALA against censorship and line their shelves with books chosen because of their literary value or value to patrons.     

Libraries must rely on funding from taxpayers at an annual vote each spring.  If you haven’t been to your library recently, make a visit and see how much it offers, if not to you, then to job seekers using the computers, to families who cannot afford to buy books or DVD’s, to elderly people relying on the book-delivery service, or to anyone looking for a book to read that will open a new road. Vote to support the budget and the library. 

Nancy Marr is Vice-President of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

by -
0 1129
File photo by Kyle Barr

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative recently recognized the Comsewogue Public Library as a leader in sustainability through its award-winning Sustainable Libraries Certification Program.

This initiative guides libraries through a step-by-step process to infuse triple bottom line sustainable decision-making into their library’s policies and actions. 

Through Comsewogue’s participation in the program, they have strengthened their existing community partnerships and expanded into new collaborations. The library staff are keenly aware of the needs of their community, although not always able to directly meet them. 

Forging partnerships with other agencies allows Comsewogue Public Library to leverage this insight and align their services to involve partnering community organizations to ensure that their community’s current and emerging needs are met. The ability to bring agencies and resources together highlights Comsewogue Public Library’s prominent role in establishing and maintaining a thriving and resilient community. 

The Sustainable Libraries Certification designation demonstrates to their community that decision making based on the triple bottom line principles can have lasting and tangible benefits.

“Everything we do now is looked at differently,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Engelhardt. “Purchases, procedures, policies are put through the Triple Bottom Line lens. We want to be Environmentally Sound, Socially Equitable and Economically Feasible in our decision making.” 

As the library administration and staff worked through the rigorous benchmarking process, they reduced their greenhouse gas consumption through the installation of LED lighting fixtures, new HVAC units, a white roof and an EnergyStar-rated water heater. 

Shredding and recycling events open to the community diverted 3720 gallons of paper and 1349 pounds of eWaste from the landfill. Energy and water savings information was broadcasted to the staff and community, with a representative from PSEG, the community’s energy provider, offering information and energy savings tips to library users. 

Additionally, they collaborated with the Town of Brookhaven to provide a receptacle for the community to continue to recycle glass after household pickup was discontinued. 

To promote empathy and respect for all members of their diverse community, cultural competency training was offered to the staff and the library’s program offerings included several engaging programs that celebrate the variety of multi-cultural heritages of those they serve. 

The library set clear objectives in a new Collection Development Policy that sets out to promote literacy and inclusivity, encourage freedom of expression, and support their community’s interests. They have worked to expand their residents’ access to government services by hosting senior advocates, job fairs, and “Claim Your Unclaimed Funds” program. 

Reflecting on the certification program, Children’s & Teen Librarian Debbie Bush said, “I believe our community better understands how we operate and sees our library as a sustainable leader in the community.” 

International impact 

Comsewogue Public Library is among the first libraries to participate in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program, the first of its kind in the world. This benchmarking program was developed to assist libraries of all kinds – public, academic, and individual school librarians — to create opportunities to make better choices on behalf of the local and global community. 

The program has been recognized by the International Federation of Library Associations at their 2019 World Congress in Athens, Greece, becoming the first program in the United States to be honored through their “Green Libraries” Award. 

Comprehensive approach 

With categories of actions focusing on each of the three pillars of triple bottom line sustainability such as Energy, Indoor Spaces, Social Cohesion and Resilience Planning, this comprehensive process leads a library toward institutional change that shifts the rationale for every decision to consider the local and global impacts. 

Through this program, libraries work with their communities to listen and learn, allowing local needs to be identified and addressed. Strengthening the relationship between the library and the community they serve builds resilience through stronger connections with many organizations and increased access to information. 

The path to certification through the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program is designed to be flexible for libraries of different types, sizes, and budgets and guided by the communities they serve. Each library that completes the program will select the benchmarks that best fit the needs of their library and community, resulting in a uniquely sustainable organization. 

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative is expanding to enroll libraries throughout the United States, with nearly 50 libraries currently enrolled in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program. Comsewogue Public Library is the ninth library to be certified through this program.

How libraries look during COVID times. Photo from Comsewogue School District

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and schools are still adjusting. The school library, a place of solace for elementary schoolers and high school seniors alike, has had to adhere to the new and ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.

Local districts, however, have embraced the changes and have implemented new services that they never would have started if it wasn’t for the crisis.

A silver lining, school librarians across the North Shore explained how the changes have impacted them, their schools and their students.

Alice Wolcott, librarian at Elwood-John Glenn High School, said that COVID changed the landscape of public education, meaning they had to reimagine their space.

“This year we transitioned the book loan program to a digital platform, which will continue to support students’ pleasure and academic reading while still observing COVID restrictions,” she said. “Students can browse the collection online via Follett Destiny [a library management system], and if they find a title they’d like to borrow, they can request that book through our book request form.”

To adhere to COVID rules, the books are delivered in a Ziploc bag to first period teachers.

Since some students are not physically in their first period classes, the district also increased their digital library as a main focus.

Shoreham-Wading River High School librarian Kristine Hanson and Albert G. Prodell Middle School librarian Ann-Marie Kalin created an initiative to meet the need for printed books while reimagining the online presence in concert with OPALS, the open-source library system.

They created a book delivery service at their schools called BookDash, which allows students to electronically submit requests with their student ID. Then, physical books are either delivered to students at Prodell or picked up at the high school library doors at the end of the school day. The initiative is promoted through English classes, and a multitude of book recommendations are available via the OPALS pages, blogs and links.

“Kids are reliant on what’s in the catalog, books that never went out before are going out like wild,” Kalin said. “For the time being we’re making the best of it all.”

With the BookDash initiative, Kalin said students are excited to get their hands on actual books.

“So many kids are so tired of being on the screen and are desperate for that interaction with each other,” she said. “I’m seeing readers I never saw before, and there are so many requests for books. It’s very successful.”

Along with Shoreham-Wading River, other districts across Long Island are using an e-book platform called Sora, including Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point.

Monica DiGiovanni teaches Sora to third graders in Rocky Point. Photo from RPSD.

Librarian Monica DiGiovanni has been visiting classrooms, having students log into their Chromebooks. She is teaching them how to check out library books with the new service, which enables students to borrow a book and read it right on their devices. Another program, Destiny Discover, enables students to find a physical book in the library and have it delivered directly to them since their libraries are currently not open.

DiGiovanni said that their school libraries have become break rooms for teachers and classroom spaces to accommodate kids in a socially distanced way.

“The library has become an interactive thing,” she said. “Students are definitely utilizing it.”

Although Rocky Point school libraries had to reshape themselves and close the doors to students, Elwood school district was able to open the doors at the high school last week. Wolcott said that right now 15 students are allowed in the library at a time, with designated seating and other stipulations in place.

“The students are really responsive and they’re following all the protocols,” she said. “It’s great to have them back.”

She even sees students, who were not her typical regulars, interacting with the library catalog more than they did before.

“Now it’s nice they’re browsing the shelves,” Wolcott said. “They’re picking books they would not have chosen otherwise.”

Donna Fife, library media specialist at Elwood Middle School, said that early on, the district was keeping library services running smoothly, while her younger students are opting to read more.

“I am seeing names I never saw before requesting books more frequently,” she said. “I know how I feel at the end of the day ­— I would have a hard time playing video games after screen learning.”
Fife said she thinks students are looking for something tangible now that some are looking at a computer all day long.
“They’re requesting to hold a physical copy instead of looking at another screen,” she said.

Nicole Taormina, librarian at Boyle Road Elementary School in the Comsewogue school district, said that new regulars have blossomed throughout the pandemic.

“They really love browsing online,” she said. “It’s a different experience — they are really excited now because they use their Chromebooks and have their own accounts.”

Taormina said that while the changes have been different, she’s looking forward to some normalcy in 2021, and is grateful for what 2020 helped her with.

“I’ve been able to tweak things,” she said. “And the students have been able to learn things that they may have not been able to learn before.”

Also in Comsewogue, Deniz Yildirim, a librarian at Terryville Road Elementary School, said that teaching her library classes has been different compared to years past.

“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “We can’t hand out worksheets anymore, and we do a lot online to cut down on contamination. No other class can come in other than what’s assigned in this room.”

When Yildirim visits classrooms at her school now, she will deliver books that children ask her for.

“It breaks my heart that they can’t browse,” she said. “But we’re making it work.”

And she said that all school libraries have made progress in 2020 than the past 10 years.

“Publishers, authors and librarians are working very hard to make sure kids are reading,” she said. “It’s the least we can do for them during these trying times.”

Taylor Kinsley, a librarian at Minnesauke Elementary School in the Three Village school district, said their schools have been allowing browsing within the libraries.

She said students have to use hand sanitizer before and after touching the books to be sure they have clean hands, and they reorganized the setup of the library, featuring no reading carpets on the floor.

“Elementary students are always excited to have the freedom to pick the books they want,” she said.

The district sanitizes the used books and quarantines them for about a week before putting them back on the shelves.

“I think normalcy is really important for them,” Kinsley added, referring to her students. “We’re being supercautious so why take that away from them?”

by -
0 1451
Port Jefferson Free Library tears down a derelict building at 114 Thompson Street. Photo by Kyle Barr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A teen volunteer at last year’s pet adoption fair at Emma Clark Library. Photo from Emma Clark Library

By Leah Chiappino

Local libraries are setting aside time this weekend to focus on community, service, and volunteerism. On Saturday, Oct. 19, over 160 libraries throughout New York State are participating in the 3rd annual Great Give Back, a program started by the Suffolk County Public Library Directors Association and the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in 2017. It expanded to Nassau County in 2018, before turning into a statewide initiative this year. Each library selects its own service projects, from medicine disposal initiatives to crocheting mice for local animal shelters.

Lisa DeVerna, head of public relations at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, praised the initiative. “All libraries do these types of activities throughout the year. But I love the idea that on one day, ALL of the libraries have community service events,” she said. “It’s a celebration of giving back. When you combine them together, there is a great variety of services throughout Long Island, thanks to libraries.”

To find out what your local library might be planning, visit www.thegreatgiveback.org. The following is a sampling of events open to all with no registration necessary.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

120 Main St., Setauket

“At Emma Clark Library we’ve decided to participate by focusing on animals because really, who doesn’t love helping animals?” DeVerna said. October 19 kicks off the library’s pet food drive, which will continue until the end of the month. New, unopened pet food (both canned and dry) is appreciated and all are welcome to donate (residents or nonresidents) and all residents and nonresidents are welcome to donate during library hours, as there will be a bin in the lobby. Call 631-941-4080.

North Shore Public Library

250 Route 25A, Shoreham

From 2:30 to 4 p.m., the community can write letters, draw pictures or make cards to be included in the Operation Gratitude Care Packages that are sent to troops. The organization has a special need for letters specifically written for new recruits, veterans and first responders. While you write and draw, husband and wife Susan and Don will present a concert titled Memorable Melodies and refreshments will be provided. The library is also conducting a sock drive, which will be donated to Maureen’s Haven, a Homeless Outreach serving LI East End for its weekly foot clinic. Call 631-929-4488.

Huntington Public Library

338 Main St., Huntington

At its main building campus, the library will host a Volunteer Fair from 2 to 5 p.m. featuring representatives from more than 25 local organizations including The Guide Dog Foundation, America’s VetDots, Huntington Hospital, League of Women Voters of Huntington, Literacy Suffolk, Northport Cat Rescue Association and Island Harvest. Call 631-427-5165.

Middle Country Public Library

101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach

575 Middle Country Road, Selden

At the library’s Centereach branch volunteers can write letters to service members from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be a tote bag decorating station for homeless shelters and food pantries from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a pet toy-making station to donate to local animal shelters from 1 to 3 p.m. At the library’s Selden Branch there will be an opportunity to make superhero kits for children in foster care from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., couponing for troops from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and planting of daffodil bulbs from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. All are welcome and no registration is required. Call 631-585-9393.

Cold Spring Harbor Library

95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor

A Pet Adoption Fair will be held in the library’s parking lot from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Stop by and adopt a new friend and enjoy delicious pet-themed treats provided by IBake and Flynn Baking Co. Call 631-692-6820.

Port Jefferson Free Library

100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson

The library will be conducting an all day food collection drive for a local food pantry for The Great Give Back. Donations of beans or canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, oatmeal, pasta, baby wipes, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, hand lotion and disinfectant spray are appreciated. Call 631-473-0022 for further information.

Smithtown Library

Main Branch, 1 North Country Road, Smithtown

The Smithtown Library will be hosting an Adopt a Soldier, Craft Program from 10 a.m.  to 3 p.m. in which families will be able to make a card or write a letter, thanking a current service member or veteran for their service. The cards will be given to America’s Adopt a Soldier program, a Virginia-based organization involved in veterans support services and outreach. Open to all. Call 631-360-2480.

Sachem Public Library

150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook

From noon to 4 p.m. the library will be taking part in Crochet for a Cause, in which people can crochet blanket squares that will be assembled to donated to local adult homes. Participants can also crochet toy mice for local animal shelters “We settled on that program because it’s a real hands-on program for all ages. Some basic crochet skills are helpful and people are welcome to bring their own supplies, but we will have [needles and yarn],” said librarian Cara Perry. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

Comsewogue Public Library

170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the library will host a Volunteer Fair for adults and teens featuring representatives from a variety of organizations seeking volunteers. Participants may drop in at any time during the event to learn about where and how they are needed to assist within the community. Call 631-928-1212.

A child takes part in Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Public Library

Believe it or not, people still read books.

Despite the doom and gloom and often-reiterated refrain that young people today are illiterate, the world and its modern technology has not managed to cripple the long-standing literary institution: the local library. Libraries survive by the manic activity of their employees and the attention of patrons.

But it’s no longer just physical copies. E-books, available on tablets and phones, have become a mainstay in the way people read. People at libraries can rent tablets preloaded with several books. For people on the move, a tablet can be much easier to carry than a stack of 10 books each averaging at 300 pages and weighing a few pounds.

Clearly, it won’t be its patrons that ruin libraries for everyone, but the book publishers themselves.

Macmillan Publishers, one of the top five biggest publishing houses in the U.S., announced its intent to soon limit the number of copies of its published books to one per library for the first eight weeks.

While that seems like the corporation is cutting off its nose to spite its face, for Suffolk County’s library system, which handles all of the area’s e-book rentals, it means patrons will have access to one single copy countywide for rent.

Think about who uses a library. The highest levels of patronage are enjoyed by people living in the North Shore communities, according to Kevin Verbesey, the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. While there are plenty of people who use the library for its many events and other activities, many others use the system to gain insights on world events and better themselves as they enjoy free access to computers and books. They find solace during an escape into literature.

It seems cynical, ludicrous and downright greedy on the part of the publisher to limit access. It suggests the current library system, which has existed for more than a century, is now, all of a sudden, cutting into publisher’s profits. Meanwhile there is good evidence to suggest libraries help create buzz and interest for the publisher’s books. Data from the Library Journal suggests many readers will go out and purchase the same book they borrowed from a library, and even more buy a book by the same author as one they borrowed from the library.

The library system exists and is as natural as the written word itself.

Librarians across the country look at the publisher’s actions and condemn them, but their voices are drowned out by the scale of the overall operation.

While Macmillan may assume people will simply go out and buy the book instead of getting it from the library, this hurts all those who cannot afford a new book, in electronic or physical form. Even worse, other publishers will potentially copy what Macmillan has done, severely limiting access for patrons to their electronic literature.

Libraries are the backbone of culture in a community. We ask all North Shore residents show support for their local library. Start a petition. Other publishers are waiting in the wings to see what happens. Letting Macmillan’s model become the norm will only harm the collective good.

The newly renovated Commack Public Library's children area is brightly lit with LED lighting. Photo by Ola Wilk/Wilk Marketing Communications

Commack residents may have to look twice to find the sleek and modern entrance of the newly renovated Commack Public Library. Hint, there’s a brand new entrance.

The Commack Public Library celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 6 after completing a $8.5 million renovation and expansion. The Hauppauge Road building was aged and out-of-date with state safety codes, according to its Director Laurie Rosenthal, as it had not undergone any significant upgrades since its construction in 1976.

Rosenthal, the library’s director for more than 15 years, said “I’m really excited to be home … this library is like a second home to me and many of our patrons.”

The Commack Public LIbrary celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 2. Photo fromWilk Marketing Communications.

The newly renovated building was designed by Beatty Harvey Coco (BHC) Architects of Hauppauge to be more consistent with the modern technological era and more community friendly by providing more space for programs.

“In the beginning of the design phase, the library’s leadership defined the functional requirements for the renovation, which included expanding the dedicated spaces for children and young adults, enlarging event and community facilities, specifying more comfortable furniture, improving telecommunications and audiovisual technology, and increasing the visibility of the building’s main entrance,” said Christopher Sepp, a senior associate for BHC. “These requirements reflected the new role of the library as a community and social center for residents.”

The main entrance of the library was moved from the intersection of Commack Road and Hauppauge Road to the side of the building facing the parking lot to make the building more accessible and safer for visitors.

The former community room was expanded from 1,203 to 1,735 square feet in order to accommodate more patrons into its programs, the library director said. In addition, a new audiovisual system and movable curtain wall partition was installed to allow more than one program to be held at a time.

What Rosenthal likes to call the “coffee cup,” a brightly LED-lit entrance to the new children’s section, features soft furniture with lounge seating, train and brick play stations and colored LED lighting strips radiating out from the central ceiling that change colors based on themes and events. The library director said new iPads in protective cases will be available to allow
children to interact with technology as well as a sensory area, or quiet low-lighting room specifically designed for children with sensory and auditory needs.

The entrance to the Commack Public LIbrary was relocated and given a facelift during the $8.5 million building renovation. Photo from Wilk Marketing Communications

Young adults have been given a 620-square-foot space off the main floor of the library which features age-appropriate reading, its own computer terminals and a booth like seating area with television and comfortable chairs where teens are invited to do homework or relax.

Throughout the library, there are varied tables, and study areas have their own built-in electrical units with Wi-Fi connections possible to allow residents to come in, sit down and connect anywhere, Rosenthal said.

In addition to the extensive redesign of the building, Islandia-based general contractor Stalco Construction made sure it was more energy efficient.

“All of the work was done with the use of sustainable and energy-efficient systems and materials to significantly improve the building’s operational efficiency, save money for years to come, and prevent the release of volatile organic compounds that could impact indoor air quality,” said Jason Vasquez, Stalco’s project manager.

The rebuild included installation of a new high-efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system and LED lighting fixtures throughout the library to reduce energy for lighting to one-third its prior rate. Other features include a new elevator for handicapped accessibility and fire sprinklers to bring it into compliance with state fire codes.

All Commack residents, regardless of township, are invited to come in to see or tour the library, Rosenthal said. Any Suffolk County resident with a library card can check out materials, she said, with some exceptions, as high-demand items are only for library district taxpayers.

Three decades later and Middle Country sign language club is thriving

The Middle Country Public Library’s Flashing Fingers club following a performance at Brookhaven Town Hall last month. Photo from Kristin Shankles

For four years, Molloy University senior and music therapy major Anna Delgado, of Selden, fought to make American Sign Language a course that fulfills the university’s language requirement. Now, ASL is offered at her university. But that may not have been the case without her experience with the Middle Country Public Library’s Flashing Fingers and sign language programs.

Delgado, followed by her younger sister, Calli, joined the library’s sign language programs in second grade and advanced to the Flashing Fingers club, which Jennie Sardone created more than three decades ago.

Thirty-three years ago, Sardone entered the Middle Country Public Library and inquired about starting sign language programs there. Today, Sardone’s sign language programs are still thriving.

“We started with only a few children, really seven, and over the last 33 years, we’ve had hundreds of children,” Sardone said.

Mary McLaughlin, Youth Services librarian, said thousands of children went through the programs. McLaughlin, who handles booking events for Flashing Fingers, also said kids must finish Sign Language One, Two and Three before advancing to the Flashing Fingers group.

“In the beginning, the children learn signs, they learn to communicate with deaf adults or other people who are learning sign language,” Sardone said. “So we’ll start easy, with colors, emotions, animals, family, numbers, the alphabet, things like that.”

Sign Language One, Two and Three are held in the fall, winter and spring, during the school year, alongside Flashing Fingers. Once a child registers for the sign language courses, they only need to sign up for the Flashing Fingers club.

McLaughlin said the group performs at around three big events each year, in addition to smaller performances for parents. Tracy LaStella, coordinator of Youth Services at the library, said organizations also request the group to perform at various events.

On Thursday July 16, the group performed at a Town of Brookhaven meeting and had local politicians moving to the music. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and members of the town council awarded the group its own day. Now, July 16 is Middle Country Flashing Fingers Club Day in the Town of Brookhaven.

The Flashing Fingers club performs a song. Photo from Tracy LaStella/Middle Country Public Library
The Flashing Fingers club performs a song. Photo from Tracy LaStella/Middle Country Public Library

The group sang, signed and danced to a variety of new and old songs that followed last academic year’s “happy” theme. Previous themes include disco and Disney.

Around two years ago, the club performed “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was one of Alexandria Gibaldi’s favorite performances. Gibaldi, of Centereach, who is going into her junior year in high school, started the sign language programs as a second-grader. She said “Fiddler on the Roof” was the first play the group performed.

According to LaStella, Sardone and McLaughlin, around 25 of nearly one hundred children in the program attend performances and Gibaldi is always one of the 25.

“I have a lot of stuff going on, but I usually make time for it because I know it’s important,” Gibaldi said. “I know it’s for Ms. Jennie and for the program. So I want to make sure I look good for the library and so I make sure I go.”

The group also performs at Veterans and nursing homes. Gibaldi said giving back to the community by performing for these individuals is one of the reasons she enjoys Flashing Fingers, as seeing people happy also makes her happy.

Jacqueline Schmitt, of Holtsville, is another Flashing Fingers member. She joined the club in the middle of last academic year. In addition to learning sign language, participants can meet kids from several local elementary, middle and high schools.

Thus far, the club’s end of year performance in May was Schmitt’s favorite. The end of year performance let club members show off what they have learned. Twelfth-grade students perform a song of their choice as a way to say goodbye to the club and its instructors at the end of the year.

Since Sardone teaches all children going through the sign language programs, the end of year performance is bittersweet.

“When they are seniors, we … cry,” Sardone said about herself, McLaughlin and LaStella. “We’ve been together for so long and … I’m happy they’re moving on, but I miss them.”

Anna Delgado remembers performing Carrie Underwood’s “Ever Ever After” from the “Enchanted” soundtrack for her final performance as a Flashing Fingers member. She was determined to learn and perform the song on her own.

Calli Delgado, who is entering seventh grade, has yet to perform a solo at the end of year performance, but like her sister, she used what she learned outside the club at school functions and talent shows.

“It was weird because a lot of people didn’t know what I was doing,” Delgado said about her first experience signing for a school event. She also signed at her school’s talent show. With the help of Sardone, Delgado performed her first solo of “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole at a school talent show. Although she doesn’t know if the club has influenced her plans for her future, she loves the program and mentoring younger members.

Anna Delgado said she credits the Flashing Fingers club and her love for ASL to Sardone.

“This kick-started my love for American Sign Language,” she said. “It changed my life; it changed my passion; it changed the direction I wanted to go in my life.”

by -
0 2518
This year’s superhero summer reading theme has elementary to high school students frequenting libraries. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Summertime usually means barbeques, sunbathing, sleeping in and packing in as much fun as possible before the beginning of another academic year. But one thing is missing from that list — reading — and it’s at the top of the list for youth departments in local libraries that encourage kids to pig out on books before going back to school in the fall.

And what better way to encourage kids to read than with superheroes? Local Long Island libraries’ summer reading lists for kids and young adults bring superheroes to the foreground with their series of hero-related books for elementary school to high school children.

Brian Debus, head of the Children’s Department at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, said the younger kids favored these graphic novel superhero books the most. Of the nearly 70,000 books in the Children’s Department, the aisles for these books and books for beginner readers are nearly barren, according to Debus.

“By the middle of the summer at least all of them have been checked out at least once,” Debus said. Children receive weekly prizes after reading the books they log out. Although the theme is superheroes, kids can log  out other books as well. According to Debus, from June 22 to July 10, children had logged out 3,674 books.

Fantasy books aren’t only flying off the shelves at Emma Clark Memorial Library. According to Katherine “Kathy” Kalin, department head of Young Adult Services at North Shore Public Library, science fiction and fantasy books are a hit among elementary, middle and high school youths.

The library’s Battle of the Books program is one of its summer reading programs for sixth- to eighth-grade students. But ninth- to 12th-grade students who aged out of this program can still keep up with their summer reading in the Battle Bistro summer reading program at the North Shore Public Library.

Battle Bistro participants read three books: “Half Brother” by Kenneth Oppel, “The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson and “The Rules of Survival” by Nancy Werlin. According to Kalin, who has read all the books for both reading programs, teens across Long Island and the country can also register for an online reading club, Unmask!, which allows them to “unmask the superhero in you.”

Unmask! club members are not limited to stories about Superman swooping in to save the day, as the hero in their story can be as simple as a strong female character.

“It’s things that kids can relate to in their lives.” Kalin said. Teens in this reading club must answer a question to show they read the book. According to Kalin, this year the question encourages kids to delve into the storyline and examine if they could relate the book to an experience in their lives.

Teens can register for this club and track their reading progress and receive a prize for every two hours of reading.

Huntington Public Library also rewards its reading club participants. Laura Giuliani, department head of Youth and Parent Services, said more students are using suggested reading lists provided by their schools.

Picture books are popular among preschoolers. “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio and “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher are popular with teens and deal with ideas of self-acceptance and suicide, respectively.

While Giuliani doesn’t know why these two books are a hit among teens, she said it’s possible the kids reading these books can relate to the storyline in some way. But regardless of the genre of book or the types of prizes, these libraries want one thing: to encourage kids and adults alike to keep reading and avoid the summer slide.

“It maintains their reading skills throughout the summer so that they [don’t] … lose those skills that they learned,” Kalin said.

Giuliani agreed saying, “If kids don’t get any reading in, they kind of fall out of the loop. It keeps the reading comprehension … and vocabulary [up].”

Most importantly, reading is just a simple fun and relaxing way to get lost in a different reality before preparing for another school year.

Port Jefferson Free Library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro and Library Director Robert Goykin present the findings of the library’s strategic plan to more than 40 community leaders on Wednesday. Photo from Robert Goykin

Port Jefferson Free Library is checking out architects as it moves toward expanding its facilities, officials announced on Wednesday at a breakfast meeting with community members.

At the meeting, library staffers updated a few dozen neighborhood leaders on the library’s strategic plan, which its board of trustees recently finalized and includes ideas of how the institution will serve residents in the future. Those plans involve branching out to two properties adjacent to its central building at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets: a residence on Thompson that it has acquired and a business on East Main that it is in the process of acquiring. The goal of expansion is to bring the Teen Center, which is now housed in a separate building across East Main, into the main building.

And an “inadequacy of library meeting space, in addition to parking challenges, were prime considerations,” library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro said in a statement.

The library is looking to hire an architectural firm that will consider the area’s historical character while designing the potential expansion, Library Director Robert Goykin said in a phone interview Thursday. “The library board is extremely committed to preserving the historic streetscape and the historic nature of this corner of the town.”

Once the board hires an architect, there will be public meetings to get community feedback and suggestions during the design process.

“We want to keep the public informed and aware every step of the way,” Goykin said.

According to a press release from the library, the adjacent property on East Main Street, which currently houses Scented Cottage Garden, measures 7,750 square feet.

Marge McCuen and Mary Lee, who co-own the property with their husbands, John McCuen and Roger Lee, said while the sale of the property is not final, the business will be closing on May 31.

The library director said the property would help the space-strapped library meet village parking requirements while satisfying the library’s needs.

Goykin said the meeting Wednesday at the library was positive, as the community offered supportive comments “and really showed how much the public appreciates the library here in Port Jeff.” He said it’s a good sign for the future, in terms of receiving community input on the design of the facility expansion.

“To see this diverse group of people seemingly in agreement … is a good start.”

This version corrects information about the sale of the Scented Cottage Garden property.