Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below come courtesy of a collaborative effort among the library staff.
In the 10 years between 1940 and 1950, the population of Selden doubled from 847 to 1743. By 1960, it would more than double again.
The growth of neighboring Centereach was even more dramatic; from 628 in 1940 to 3100 in 1960 and 6,676 in 1970. For many civic-minded citizens, it was time for a community library. In March of 1957, The Mid Island News announced the forthcoming opening of the “long-awaited library serving the Centereach and Selden communities.” A library board of trustees was formed and board president, Lucille Hough, began a door-to-door canvass to solicit books for the new facility.
The former Nature’s Gardens clubhouse on Middle Country Road in Selden was acquired from area developer, O.L. Schwenke. A local carpenter began renovations and volunteers were requested to help catalog the books. The library was to be open 15 hours per week and managed by part-time librarian, Sadie Hallock, assisted by volunteers. By 1961, the topic of the need for a new branch library appeared in the board minutes. Suggested sites were Jericho School or the former Centereach school — neither proved possible. In 1963, when a new Centereach Post Office was built, the site of the former post office became available for rent. In June of 1963, a lease was signed for 8 Dawn Drive which would be available by year’s end. A “Stack the Shelves” drive suggested by Mr. Jones of Tinker National Bank announced that the bank would contribute $500 plus $2.00 for every new depositor over a stated period. In addition, Bernard Kaplan, Eastwood Village developer, pledged $500 to start the campaign.
Circulation figures for the library increased every year. In 1964, the first year both libraries were in operation, the circulation was 54,570. By 1967, it had risen to 176,145. In 1968, the name changed to Middle Country Public Library reflected the consolidation of the school district. That same year, the board hired Paul John Cirino as the library director.
As the number of school age children surged and the school district became the fastest growing in the nation, the library kept pace to meet the needs of the increasing population. A search was begun for a suitable site of approximately three-acres with a minimum frontage of 150-feet and close to the center of population and not more than a quarter mile from Middle Country Road. In 1971, ground was broken for a new building on the corner of Eastwood Blvd and School Street and the new 19,000-square-foot building was dedicated on Jan. 30, 1972.
By 1981, the number of library cardholders had exceeded 51,000 and the annual circulation topped 500,000. Program attendance continued to rise and space for additional programming was at a premium. When the lease on the Selden Branch expired, the School District offered the unused Selden Elementary School to the library. In 1983, after remodeling the school to provide handicapped access and library furniture and shelving, the Middle Country Cultural Center at Selden was opened to the public.
An auditorium, complete with a stage and seating for almost 200, afforded a venue for community dramatic and musical a. MCPL’s 107,000-square-foot, two-building expansion made it the largest and busiest library on Long Island.
Dynamic architectural spaces reflect the ever-changing innovative and creative activities taking place within the library, which is always looking forward to draw in new audiences and find ways to make the library an even more responsive heart of the community.