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Library museum passes

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The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. File photo by Elyse Sutton

By Nasrin Zahed

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library held its annual budget vote on Wednesday, Sept. 20, with the Three Village community overwhelmingly supporting the measure, 437-74.

The proposed budget plan outlines continued expenses, such as employee salaries and mandated benefits, while highlighting the library’s plans to expand resources to the community and become a more central local hub.

The proposed $5,726,582 fiscal year budget is $88,526 more than the previous years, with a 1.57% tax levy increase.

Lisa DeVerna, the library’s marketing communications manager, expressed the library’s delight at the public support. “We were very pleased with the outcome,” she said in an email. “Eighty-six percent of voters supported the budget, which is comparable to years past.”

DeVerna outlined some of the big projects the library brought to fruition this year, such as the completed construction project to improve the flow of the main reading room.

“We now have a better delineation between the quiet and lively areas,” DeVerna said, offering more structure to the layout of the space and allowing patrons to enjoy public events and activities without infringing on the sanctity of the popular study spot.

The communications manager expanded on the library’s current café project, which is still under construction, giving assurances that the space would be open to the public soon.

The library is also revamping the Children’s Department by adding new toys and play sets. “These projects are helping make the library even more of a community center than it was before, inviting those to come and stay for a while and meeting the different needs of our various constituents,” DeVerna said.

The library will also go beyond Setauket residence by purchasing museum passes for patrons to borrow out through their unique Library of Things collection.

Passes to the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in Manhattan, as well as the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, are currently available. The Library of Things also lets patrons sign out many items such as cameras, telescopes, projectors and more.

DeVerna shared how library staff are working toward catering to community youth by developing a separate Teen Services Department. The separation has “allowed us to build more robust programming, particularly year-round volunteer opportunities for teens, who are always looking for more community service hours,” DeVerna said.

With hopes of redesigning the layout and flow of the Children’s Library and increasing investments into existing programs, DeVerna outlined that “in general, we are concentrating on programming next year and have increased the budget of the program by $15,000.” Yet, the budget keeps flowing as DeVerna emphasized that the library is also looking to widen adult opportunities.

“For adults, we’re expanding the scope of our technology classes in 2024, including an advanced Excel class and more of an emphasis on the Cricut cutting machine due to the demand for such programming,” she said. 

As the library has typically catered to classes at the beginner level, this allows patrons to refine and expand on the basics that they have already learned.

With the budget’s passage, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library leaders aim for the library to remain a staple of the Three Village area through its new programs, spaces and interests for its neighbors.

A Vought F-8K Crusader at the Intrepid Museum in New York City awaits your visit.

By Melissa Arnold

If you haven’t been to a library in a while, you probably still envision it as little more than rows of books and people reading. But times have changed, and these days, libraries are about so much more than checking out an old book. Just ask thousands of families across Long Island who have benefitted from their library’s Museum Pass Program.

The premise is a simple one: When you become a patron of your local library, which is free, you’ll get access to everything it has to offer. Collections run the gamut from traditional books and magazines to video games and digital content.

The majority of Suffolk County’s libraries also allow their patrons the chance to borrow a family pass for a number of area museums, both on Long Island and in New York City. While the participating museums vary for each library, popular destinations such as the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City and the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan are almost universally available.

Each library’s Museum Pass Program is funded through its own budget or with assistance from their local support organization. While it’s not clear which library on Long Island first offered museum passes, similar programs have existed for decades across the country.

According to Samantha Alberts of Suffolk County Library Services, libraries in Ohio were providing passes as early as the 1980s. In 2008, Sachem Public Library became one of the first local libraries to offer passes. “We try to be a source of inspiration and education for people, whether that’s on-site or out in the community, so it seemed like a natural fit to introduce people to new experiences,” said Lauren Gilbert, head of community services for the Sachem Public Library. They began approaching local museums to purchase family memberships — the same annual passes anyone can buy. Each museum has slightly different rules, but multiple adults and children can be admitted with just one pass. Gilbert said that in 2015 alone, passes to 17 museums were borrowed more than 2,000 times at Sachem. Other participating libraries have seen similarly impressive numbers, and the program’s popularity grows every year.

For the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, the Museum Pass Program is a more recent addition to their offerings. “Earlier in 2013, we did a survey of our patrons asking about the kinds of services they’d want to see at the library,” explained Lisa DeVerna, head of the library’s Department of Community Outreach and Public Relations. “When we looked at the responses, people asked over and over again for museum passes.”

They launched their program modestly, with 10 museums in the first year. Now, they have passes for 21 museums, including seven in New York City. More than 1,000 passes were checked out at Emma Clark in 2015, and they’re on track to meet or surpass that number this year. “It’s so easy to use. I’m a patron here [at Emma Clark], and I’ve done it myself with my kids,” DeVerna said. “You just pick up the pass the day before your visit and bring it back before noon the day after. [At our library], you can even renew the pass for use the next day as long as there’s not a reservation on it already.”

Each library has its own policies for the program, but most will allow patrons to borrow passes several times a month, and sometimes more than one museum at a time. And with the option to reserve the pass online or by phone, it couldn’t be more convenient. Therese Nielsen, department head of Adult and Reference Services at the Huntington Central Library, said that each museum’s popularity varies over time, and that they occasionally add new museums based on patrons’ requests.

“Certain places tend to spike in popularity on a seasonal basis,” Nielsen explained. “The Old Westbury Gardens are popular in the fall and spring when everything is in bloom, people like to visit the Intrepid [Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City] when it’s not terribly hot outside. At the holidays, a lot of people like to visit Old Bethpage Village. The MoMA and Guggenheim [Museum, both in New York City] are popular throughout the year, as are the Long Island Children’s Museum and the Cradle of Aviation [both in Garden City].”

The museums Nielsen mentioned are only a slice of what’s available. The librarians were quick to say there’s something for everyone, and the program saves families the money they’d normally spend on a museum trip, where a family of four could pay $50 or more for admission. “I think that part of the benefit of living in this area is all the great access to cultural institutions. There’s so much to offer here and people have been so excited to take advantage of that,” DeVerna said. “And you no longer have to worry about it being too expensive because it’s right here for free.”

Contact your local library for details about the Museum Pass Program in your area.