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Middle Country Library

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Join the Middle Country Public Library for an exciting evening of career exploration! Long Island teens in grades 6 to 12 and first/second year college students are invited to register for this informative panel of professionals from specialized job fields who will give insights into their professions. Attendees will have an opportunity to chat with panelists one-on-one and learn about the library’s Career Counseling services.

Featured career panelists include:

Stephanie Knorzer: Owner/Operator, The Cookie Shop, Centereach

Dominika De Leon: Graphic Designer/Creative Director, Konwalia Design

Danielle Gruttaduario: Forensic Artist, Suffolk County Police Department

Karen Oswald: Senior Evidence Specialist, Suffolk County Police Department

Large Anthony: Tattoo Artist, Main Street Tattoo, Kings Park

Chris Kelly: Training Director, Long Island Electrical JATC with IBEW 25 & NECA LI Chapter

This event will take place on Wednesday, March 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Middle Country Public Library’s Selden location at 575 Middle Country Road. Registration required and open to district and non-district residents. Register in-person or call 631-585-9393 ext. 115.

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The Public Libraries of Suffolk County recently announced that it reached 2.9 million digital book checkouts on the download platform, Livebrary.com, in 2021.

The site, consisting of 56 libraries in Suffolk County, is one of 121 public library systems worldwide that surpassed 1 million checkouts.

According to a press release sent out by PLSC, this record-breaking milestone illustrates the continued growth and importance of library digital lending of e-books and audiobooks, especially after a prolonged period of building closures due to the global pandemic.

“The Public Libraries of Suffolk County continue to meet the needs of their communities by providing patrons with much-needed access to entertainment and learning opportunities through e-books and audiobooks,” Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, said in a statement.

PLSC has been providing readers 24/7 access to e-books and audiobooks for several years through the Libby app, the library reading app created by OverDrive allowing for readership to grow each year.

Readers in Suffolk County just need a valid library card from a member library to access digital books from Livebrary’s OverDrive-powered digital collection, and can use any device including Apple, Android, Chromebook or Kindle to read or listen.

Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station had 125,284 digital book downloads, combined. Of that total, 94,478 were e-books and 30,806 were e-audiobooks. The Port Jefferson Free Library had 51,117 downloads overall, and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library patrons in Setauket downloaded 156,576 e-books, e-audiobooks and e-magazines. 

“Our library’s patrons are among the heaviest users of e-books in the county, and we know that they value the ease, convenience and accessibility that e-books provide,” said Ted Gutmann, director at Emma S. Clark. “Although we love seeing our patrons in the library, not everyone is comfortable or indeed able to get to the library. E-books are a perfect alternative for those who can’t make it out to the library. Also, the convenience of instant access can’t be overlooked. I’ll often find myself at home reading a review or hearing a reference to a particular book that sounds interesting. It’s so nice to be able to just log on and download the book and start reading right away.”

Middle Country Public Library had 98,285 downloads in 2021. 

“Over the past seven years, we have seen a steady increase in our downloadable materials,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, director of MCPL. “We weren’t surprised that the numbers spiked during the pandemic, we were however, pleased that our patrons were able to access library materials such as e-books and e-audios either for recreational or educational purposes during that time. We also saw an influx of new library card applications, presumably new users seeking to access Livebrary.com.”

The highest-circulating title Livebrary readers borrowed in 2021 for both e-books and e-audiobooks was “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah. The top-circulating genre — romance — represents the most popular in a vast catalog that also includes mystery, biography and autobiography, children/young adult and more. 

In Smithtown, 9% of the total downloads for the entire county came from The Smithtown Library with 266,304 digital downloads in 2021. 

“The Smithtown Library is happy to know that our patrons continue to see the value of their library in the Smithtown community,” said Robert Lusak, director. “Our aim is to not just be about providing materials from the physical collections inside our buildings, but to also provide access to digital materials. We believe that e-books and audiobooks are equally as vital to our service program.”

Long Island Health Collaborative library study

These numbers also come just as the Long Island Health Collaborative released the results of a two-year study which examined health and social support issues encountered by public library staff and the patrons they serve. The survey proved that public libraries are essential to Long Islander’s health and wellness.

The LIHC, a coalition of 300-plus organizations all involved in improving the health of Long Islanders, helped coordinate and partially fund the research. 

Public health researchers from Stony Brook University and Adelphi University interviewed library staff at randomly selected libraries throughout Long Island during December 2017 and February 2020.

They found that there was a difference between the needs and program offerings based on the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood in which a library is located. Libraries in lower-resourced communities generally ran more basic social assistance programs and those in higher-resourced communities offered more enrichment/leisure-type programming.

Researchers said they were not surprised at the results, as social determinants of health — those factors outside of medicine that influence an individual’s health — account for nearly 80% of health outcomes. These factors include education, poverty, access to transportation, safe and affordable housing, health insurance coverage, and access to nutritious and affordable foods, among others.

Starting with a list of 113 public libraries, 18 libraries in Suffolk County (from 26 randomly selected) and 14 libraries in Nassau County (from 27 randomly selected) consented to participate in the Long Island Libraries Qualitative Research Project.  

A total of 96 interviews were completed, recorded and transcribed. Approximately three staff members at each library were interviewed, and the transcribed interviews were coded based on themes that emerged from the interviews across sites.  

This resulted in a coding schema with 11 categories and many subthemes within each category.

“Public libraries are hidden gems in our communities,” said Janine Logan, director of the LIHC. “They are a trusted resource. Increasingly, public libraries play a key role in delivering some of the health and social support services an individual requires to live his/her best life.”

Photo from Ray Welch

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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

On Dec. 18, 1959, the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the county’s first community college on the former Suffolk Sanatorium site in Selden. The 1918 building above, which originally served as the Sanatorium’s infirmary, housed faculty office space when the 130-acre site on which it stood was designated as the future home of Suffolk County Community College. 

Although SCCC held its initial year of classes in October of 1960 at Sachem Junior-Senior High School in Ronkonkoma and Riverhead High School, the college took permanent residence of the old Sanatorium site beginning in September of 1961. Initial enrollment included 171 full-time and 355 part-time students. 

From left to right: Elizabeth Malafi, Sal DiVincenzo, Maryellen Ferretti and Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. Photo from MCPL

TD Bank has provided a generous grant of $5,000 to  the Middle Country Library Foundation in support of a new series focused on business and personal finance and the annual Women’s EXPO, the library’s educational and supportive venue where local women entrepreneurs and artists gain valuable tradeshow experience.

Photo from MCPL

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. 

Photo from MCPL

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.

Photo from MCPL

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. 

Photo from MCPL

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.

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Photo from MCPL

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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Driving along Middle Country Road today, it is hard to imagine that only 100 years ago, this busy four- lane highway with its many intersections, signs, and streetlights started out as little more than a hard-packed dirt road. 

Go back 100 years more, and you’d only see a narrower, rutted path. We take our nicely maintained, hard paved roads for granted today, but it wasn’t always such a smooth ride. 

Today’s network of streets and highways have their origins in simple trails which were used by people and wildlife leading to sources of water and shelter. 

These paths measured only two to three-feet wide in places, but they were sufficient for the needs of the times. 

Photo from MCPL

Early English settlers began to use these footpaths as they established homesteads on Long Island, widening and improving these paths, using them as cart-ways to allow for easier travel between their farms. The cart-way needed to be wide enough for a livestock-drawn cart to traverse with ease. In those days a cart would be hauled by cattle, ox, or horsepower.

Those paths were the only way to travel around Long Island until 1703, when the NY General Assembly appointed highway commissioners in King’s County (Brooklyn), Queens County and Suffolk County to direct the building and maintenance of roads “four rods wide.” The roads were simply packed earth, hardened over time by travelers.  It took some time for conditions to improve, and eventually drainage systems were constructed, and logs or planks were laid across some roads to pave them. These log-covered roads were known as “corduroy roads” because of their bumpy surface.

Thirty years after the highway commissions laid out the routes, arranged rights-of-way between existing properties and physical construction took place, Long Island boasted three major thoroughfares: North Country Road, parts of which follow today’s Route 25A; Middle Country Road, now known as Route 25 or Jericho Turnpike; and South Country Road, portions of which serve as Montauk Highway. 

An organized system of roads was needed for many reasons as the population grew. Though most homesteads were self-sufficient at that time, people would barter for goods and gather together to socialize. Mail needed to be delivered across the Island, and prior to the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service in 1775, England’s Royal Mail System was utilized. Before reliably passable roads were built, that mail was delivered from Connecticut by boat. It was faster and easier to travel 19 miles by water than 120 miles overland from New York City.

As the farmland was cultivated and enriched over time, it produced more than one family or village could use and farming became a burgeoning industry. 

Means to transport the surplus produce was required. Farm to Market Road (also called Horseblock Road) filled this need. Farm owners would load their wagons full of fruits and vegetables to ship by rail to New York City.

 The term “horseblock” refers to a block of stone or wood used to help a person climb high enough to mount a horse or to enter a stagecoach with ease. With many homes, farms and taverns located along these miles of roadway, horseblocks were a familiar sight. We call this same Farm to Market Road by its old nickname, Horseblock Road to this day. 

Photo from MCPL

Through the years, several popular taverns and rest stops were located on Horseblock Road. As far back as Revolutionary times, Sam “Horseblock” Smith owned and ran a tavern at the intersection of Horseblock and Middle Country Roads in Centereach.

 A Smith genealogy relates that on March 2, 1806 Sam sold the inn and land to Lake Grove resident, Titus Gould. It appears that part of the tavern was dismantled and moved to another location. Generations later, Alfred Elsmann ran Al’s Tavern, at the corner of Horseblock and Granny Roads. It was advertised in the Patchogue Advance of March 7, 1946 as specializing in home cooking and “the best in beer, wines and liquors,” and was a popular destination for local festivities for several decades.

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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

This beautifully embroidered map was gifted to Middle Country Public Library, and is part of the Heritage Collection, the library’s local history archives. 

It shows a detailed and unique view of Centereach as it stood in 1937. Oriented in a west to east view from top to bottom, we can see the landmarks and homesteads that residents would visit and pass by daily. 

Near the top right of the image, we can see the New Village First Congregational Church prominently featured in white, just south of the Fairgrounds. It was such a major landmark that it needed no caption. The steeple, front door and footpath are skillfully embroidered in. Homes of many residents (Overton, Emery, Olsen, Ulrich, Duffield, Campbell, Moen, Scudder and Alvin Smith, Bertram, to name a few) are painstakingly labeled along with many prominent businesses. 

William Tobin’s “Ontheway” Rest, located on the northwest corner of Middle Country Road and Stony Brook Road served as a gasoline station and featured a lunch stand that Mrs. Tobin ran on the adjoining property. 

Other establishments depicted include the barbershop, the grocery store, Homeside Nursery, the lumber yard and Carl’s Tavern, along with the Wilkinson, Williams, Moller and Murray farms. 

If you look closely, a hen and her chicks are carefully stitched in, foraging about the Wilkinson’s farmyard. The fire house, fair grounds, and schools (both the existing and proposed new school sites), the Parsonage and Parish Hall are all here. 

Streets are not labeled, but we know that Middle Country Road runs from top to bottom down the center of the panel and we can see where paving is incomplete on the right margin (the north side of the map). The New Village Congregational Church which stands today on Middle Country Road just west of Elliot Avenue and residences such as the Henry house help us determine the location of other streets. 

We know that the Henry homestead was located at the corner of Middle Country Road and North Washington Avenue. We can also see William Wortley’s gas station which was situated on the south side of Middle Country Road opposite Wood Road, where the barbershop stands embroidered with the traditional red and white pole. 

For an entertaining treasure hunt, take a look to discover what other family names and landmarks you can find. More names and places can be found on this map than we could list here. Have fun!


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Photo from MC Library

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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Photo from MC Library

The junction of Boyle and Middle Country Roads in Selden was the setting for this early 1940s winter view of the homestead of Wendell Shipman Still (1896-1954) and his wife, Pauline Dare Still (1895-1950). They were married on March 29, 1920 and raised two daughters, Maybelle and Lucille in this home.

Wendell served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, and after receiving an honorable discharge in 1919, he returned to Long Island and purchased a truck farm in Selden. Still grew vegetables and raised poultry as a source of income.

By the 1940s, his poultry plant had the capacity to raise 250,000 chickens per year. He was a successful businessman, establishing Wendell Still Enterprises. Later, Still became a wholesale gasoline distributor and retailer of fuel oil and kerosene, as well as marketing various products, including different types of feed and commercial fertilizer.

Wendell was a very civic-minded citizen and a member of the American legion, the Selden Volunteer Fire Department, and the Port Jefferson Yacht Club. He also served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Selden Public School District. 

Photo from MC Library

Pauline (Dare) Still was a lifelong resident of Selden. She attended public school in there and continued her education at the Patchogue High School. Pauline graduated from Cortland State Teachers College in 1916 and taught in both the Selden and Centereach schools for a period of 12 years. In this charming 1896 photograph, baby Pauline sits with her parents, Samuel and Henrietta (Wicks) Dare. 

Pauline was very active in church, civic and local affairs, serving in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Selden American Legion, the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Coram Trinity, National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865, Order of the Eastern Star and the Coram and Selden Community Clubs. 

She also was one of the founders of the Farmingville Reunion Association and was instrumental in obtaining the Bald Hill School House when it was to be removed in 1929. The Greek Revival Style School House had served the community continuously from 1850 until 1929. Today, the Farmingville Historical society runs educational, recreational and virtual events in the School House and on the property. 

Samuel Dare, Age 16. This image was donated to the library’s collection by Samuel Dare’s great grandson and area resident, Larry Grignon.

Pauline’s father, Samuel Dare (1847-1913) was a Civil War veteran who enlisted in the Union army in 1863 at the age of 16. Samuel was part of the 165th Regiment, 2d Duryea Zouaves, (an elite fighting force) which was a division of the NY Volunteer Infantry. In this portrait, Samuel is dressed a Zouave uniform which included woolen trousers, shirt, waistband, jacket, and traditional tasseled hat.

Samuel was a lifelong member of Selden, active in community affairs, and member of a fraternal organization called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). This group was comprised of members of the Union Army, Navy and Marines who fought in the U. S. Civil War. He was a prominent member of the Selden community for many years, serving as a member of the Brookhaven Board of Trustees, serving as its president from 1894-1897.

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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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Over the years, a variety of land developers purchased acreage in the Centereach area even as far back as 1896, despite its distance from New York City. 

It took until the 1940s and 1950s for construction to begin in earnest. 

Shortly after WWII, the Ulrich family developed Cedarwood Park on the north side of Middle Country Road in the vicinity of Elliot Avenue, Lake Grove. Roads were put in and building lots surveyed and improved. The lots sold for $250 each with a down payment of just $10.

The rural landscape of Centereach began to change dramatically in the middle of the 20th century when the Kaplan firm began to build low-priced homes in a development named Dawn Estates. Homes in this development sold for $7,000. 

While the Kaplan brothers were among the first developers, the Krinsky Organization followed them with an even larger project. Fifteen hundred homes were to be built on a 400-acre site, but there were concerns about this project from the start. 

Doubters cited its remote location and the difficulty of obtaining necessary public utilities in what was considered an isolated area. These worries were soon overcome when the Krinsky Organization created its own water company with the capacity to serve 10,000 families. 

In addition, the Long Island Lighting Company agreed to extend its gas lines more than six miles beyond the existing distribution limit, bringing in electricity to serve the new homes.

On Sept. 6, 1953, the front page of the New York Times real estate section featured a picture of the new Eastwood Village exhibit home with its raised-hearth fireplace and its combination living-dining-kitchen area. 

While the first year’s sales were slow, within five years 1,250 homes had been sold. The prices for these homes ranged from $9,990 to $13,500. 

In 1954, Eastwood Village became a multiple builder venture as other builders erected models on already improved building sites. By 1958, 2,500 homes had been sold in the development. Due to expanding job opportunities and the availability of larger houses on bigger sites, increasing numbers of people flocked to the area. 

A study by Klein and Parker Realty in 1954 indicated that 60% of those looking at Eastwood Village came from Queens and Nassau, 20% from Manhattan and the remainder from other boroughs and New Jersey. 

It has been said that so many people came to Centereach from New York City that it became known as “a portion of Brooklyn in Suffolk County.”

In 1957, the American Institute of Architects selected Hausman & Rosenberg’s  Eastwood Village model as a winner in the annual “Homes for Better Living” competition. Cited for its architecture and original design, the home won the award in the A.I.A’s Class A category for merchant-built homes under $15,000.

With the influx of new residents came the need for more services. The first supermarkets in the area were Acme Supermarket, Hills, A&P and the Blue Jay Market. Benkert’s of Centereach and Smiles 5&10 became favorite haunts. 

In 1963, the Prudential Movie Theatre made its debut and the following year, Suffolk Federal Savings moved into its new headquarters on the south side of Middle Country Road. As a variety of stores, shopping centers and businesses appeared, the remaining farms began to fade from the landscape. 

The 400 acres of land described as “a wilderness covered with heavy timber” purchased in 1790 by Isaac Hammond of Coram for 100 pounds sterling ($250) has evolved into the largest Hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven (Three Village Herald, July 15-22, 1977).

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Photo from Middle Country Public Library

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 comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Selden schoolchildren sang “America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the ceremony on Nov. 9, 1935, when the cornerstone was laid for the soon-to-be-built new Selden School. 

Photo from Middle Country Library

Sealed within the cornerstone was a copper box containing three local newspapers of the day (the Patchogue Advance, the Argus and the Mid-Island Mail), the year’s school census, a copy of the day’s program, a 1935-minted dime and penny, and an 1885 almanac. 

The new Selden Elementary school was completed in 1936 and replaced the one-room schoolhouse which had served the community from 1898 on. The updated structure contained three classrooms, a principal’s office, a well house, indoor washrooms and an oil-burning heating system. 

Further renovations to the building were undertaken in 1948, which ultimately accommodated almost 50 years of students within its walls. 

The U.S. Army surplus cannon depicted here was purchased after WWII with nickels and dimes saved by the schoolchildren of Selden. 

You’ll see it in front of the building if you drive by 575 Middle Country Road, where Middle Country Public Library Selden stands today.