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Port Jefferson Free Library

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.

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.

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The children's section of the Port Jefferson Free Library. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Port Jefferson Free Library has closed its doors effective March 13 until further notice due to coronavirus concerns. 

Library Director Tom Donlon announced it late Friday after the library administration and board of trustees came to the decision it was necessary to “protect the health and well being of patrons and staff,” according to an email statement.

The announcement has come after multiple levels of government, including New York State and the White House declared a 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. 

“The library fully appreciates and understands the disappointment and disruption that this action will cause, but finds that it is paramount to preserve to the greatest extent possible the safety of our patrons and staff during this declared state of emergency,” a statement from the library read. 

Patrons will not accrue any late fees on checked-out items while the library is closed.

The statement also asked patrons to consult the library’s website, portjefflibrary.org,  for ongoing developments. Online services including Overdrive, Hoopla and Kanopy are still available from the library’s website.

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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.

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PJ Royals Win in Homecoming Blowout

Port Jefferson homecoming football game against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck Oct. 5. Photo by Bill Landon

The weekend of Oct. 4-6 was one of purple and Royals pride. Hundreds swarmed through Port Jefferson during the annual parade, and more gathered in the Joe Erland Field for fun and games, as the Village of Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and local residents combined their efforts to put on a huge blowout celebration.

When it came to the game at 2 p.m. Oct. 5, it was a Royal’s rout when Greenport/Southold/Mattituck came calling and was blown out by Port Jefferson 62-0. From the opening kickoff it was all Port Jeff as wide receiver Aidan Kaminska proved unstoppable as the senior found the end zone three times, along with teammates Luke Verruto and Luke Filippi who each had a pair of touchdowns. Junior Alex Ledesma split the uprights eight times for the extra point.Senior quarterback Sam Florio, who was healthy after missing last week’s game against Mount Sinai, threw for over 250 yards with four TD passes in the Div. IV matchup.

The win lifts the Royals to 2-3 with three games remaining before the post season and are back in action with a road game against Elwood John Glenn Oct. 12. Kickoff is at 1:30pm.

Keynote speaker Erika Swyler will discuss her writing process at the event at 2:30 p.m. Photo by Photo by Nina Subin

By Melissa Arnold

From its bustling theater scene to scores of local artists, photographers and writers, Long Island has always been a hot spot for creative types. Book reviews and interviews with local authors are a regular part of our Arts & Lifestyles coverage, and many of the Island’s libraries are proud to offer a collection of stories written by people from the area.

At the Port Jefferson Free Library, the annual Local Author Fair allows writers of all genres to meet readers, share their work and even make some new friends. This year’s fair, held Saturday, Oct. 5, will welcome more than 20 authors for an afternoon of reading and conversation.

Now in its 5th year, the fair began as a response to the large number of local writers approaching the library looking to publicize their books.

“The library hosted author panels in the past for writers to talk about the writing and publication process together,” explained Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian at the Port Jefferson Free Library. “We’re constantly given books to add to our collection of local authors. In fact, area writers approached the library so frequently we thought it would be a good idea to have an event where people not only come to see an author they know, but to meet other authors whose work they might not be familiar with.”

Each author that appears at the fair has their own dedicated space to promote and sell their work. While book signings may leave an author rushing to get to each person on line, the fair provides ample opportunity for authors to take questions, chat and browse other tables.

This year’s keynote speaker, Erika Swyler, is a native Long Islander whose nationally best-selling work has earned acclaim from Buzzfeed to the New York Times.

“I try not to get myself tied down to one particular genre,” said Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation. “I’m a very curious person and I’m interested in a lot of different things.”

Swyler’s writing career blossomed from her time in acting school, where she emerged as a playwright. It was a natural progression, said the author, who yearned for the chance to dig deeper into a character’s thoughts and feelings. Two novels later, she credits her success to dogged perseverance and a thick skin when it comes to rejection.

At the fair, Swyler will discuss her writing process and read an excerpt from her newest release, Light From Other Stars, which blends sci-fi with literary fiction and shades of horror in a coming-of-age tale.

“Long Island has its own unique and powerful culture that sets it apart. I love meeting other people in the area who are pursuing creativity,” Swyler said. “Living a creative life is difficult, and it’s important to develop a sense of community to remember that we’re all in this together.”

Stephanie Kepke of Plainview has been a part of the fair since its second year and enjoys returning annually to make new connections.

“I love this event because it’s a great way to meet readers, and it’s always wonderful to get to   hear from wonderful keynote speakers as well,” she said. “I find that often people will come to meet a specific author and then discover others in the process.”

Kepke was an English major before beginning a lengthy career in journalism and public relations. She dabbled in fiction all the while and began sharing stories with the world in 2015. Her work, which she describes as “women’s fiction with heart, humor and a dash of spice,” includes two novellas — A New Life and You and Me — and a novel titled Goddess of Suburbia.

“I’m so grateful to get my words out into the world, and it means so much when people come up and talk about how much our work has impacted them. The fair is an unparalleled way to come out and really talk to authors. We all want to meet everyone who comes to see us, and for me it doesn’t even matter if you buy my books. It’s about making connections,” she said.

In addition to the keynote from Swyler, a few of the authors will also have the chance to give 5-minute “lightning talks.” Visitors should be sure to visit as many tables as possible, collecting signatures from authors as they go. The more signatures you get, the more chances you’ll have to enter the day’s raffle. Winners will receive a bag of Port Jefferson Free Library merchandise and a signed copy of Swyler’s latest book.

“It’s very easy today for people to search for a book online and buy it, but getting to read something written by a local author who you get to meet and talk to gives you the chance to make a more personal investment in their work,” Filosa said. “It’s always a joy to watch people discover new authors and new books from this event.”

Participating authors:

Erika Swyler
Mindy Kronenberg
L L  Cartin
Ralph Brady
Joseph E. Vitolo
Lorraine Stacy
Mike Virgintino
Liz  Macchio
Celeste Williams
Lisa Scuderi-Burkimsher
Stephanie Kepke
Larry McCoy
Peter Busacca
Marilyn London
Oswaldo Jimenez
Erick Alayon
Jack  Batcher
TRACI Wendler
Marianne  Schwartz
Roland Allnach
Catherine Asaro

Sponsored by the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library, the 5th annual Local Author Fair will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-473-0022.

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Port Jefferson Free Library's children's section is bursting with books. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Coming Tuesday, April 2, the libraries in Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station will ask their local residents to vote on their budgets, each with marginal increases from last year.

The Comsewogue library. File photo

Comsewogue Public Library

The proposed 2019-20 budget total will be $5,999,878, an increase of close to $280,000 from the previous year. This year the library is proposing a districtwide total tax levy increase of $112,417. With the adoption of the proposed budget the library’s tax rate will increase approximately 56 cents from $12.845 to $13.402 per $100 of a home’s assessed valuation.

The new tax rate will repreent a 3.99 percent tax levy increase, which is below the library’s allowable tax levy increase of 4.64 percent. 

The library has continued to see significant demand for print collections, according to its director Debbie Engelhardt. It also has grown its online, electronic e-book, audiobook and streaming video collections. 

Engelhardt said the library will continue to integrate web and phone platform collections like Hoopla, which offers music, audiobooks, e-books and TV shows; Libby, offering e-books and audiobooks; and Flipster, which provides digital magazines. She said these will offer members convenient access to content from their phones and tablets. The library plans, in the near future, to add Kanopy, a video streaming platform consisting of classics, documentaries and indie films to its online collections.

Services like one-on-one, free tech sessions remain in demand, as well as instruction in using new tech devices and accessing online collections.

The Library’s Green Team, which was formed in late 2018, is looking to achieve a Green Library Certification through the New York Library Association, which presents the certification program in cooperation with the Green Business Partnership of Westchester. 

For the trustee election vote, there is only one candidate on the ballot. John Rossini has been a trustee for the past two years, having been appointed to fill a vacancy. Rossini has been a resident of the Comsewogue School District for the past 19 years and said in a statement that serving as a trustee has been an extraordinary experience. 

Budget/trustee election vote will be April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road. 

If you are unable to vote in person, you can apply for an absentee ballot by calling 631-928-1212, ext. 123 or by visiting the library’s website. 

The Port Jefferson Free Library is at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets. File photo

Port Jefferson Free Library

For the 2019-20 year the library has a proposed $4,481,063 budget total, an increase of $62,000 from the previous year. Salaries will increase slightly by $20,000.

For building operations and maintenance, the library is proposing a budget of $276,000. That will cover the cost of equipment to maintain the library buildings. 

An important issue in the community is the status of the library cottage. The library board said it is working with the mayor, the historical society, the Friends of the Library and the village in the process of solidifying a design and weighing cost-benefit analysis.

To make library resources readily available to residents, they have designed a more streamlined website. The library’s “digital portal” has almost 1 million items cataloged, databases of information, discounted travel opportunities, free museum passes as well as access to web streaming services including Flipster, Kanopy and Hoopla. 

This year the library has a 2 percent tax cap, and the proposed tax amounts will come out to an estimated total monthly increase of less than $2.50 per month for the average household. The tax rate will increase 66 cents from $12.91 to $13.57. 

Voting for the proposed budget will be on April 2 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. library is located at 100 Thompson St. If you are unable to come in, absentee ballots are available through April 1 by calling 631-473-0022.  

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The Port Jefferson Free Library is at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets. File photo

Two spots for trustee on at the Port Jefferson Free Library are coming up for vote in January and five community members are asking library cardholders for their vote.

While current library trustee Christian Neubert is running again for the same spot, trustee Lisa Ballou has decided not to run again for her seat.

Those who wish to vote for the trustees must be a Port Jefferson Village resident and be a cardholder “in good standing,” meaning voters cannot have more than $5 outstanding on their library cards. The vote will be held 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 9, 2019, at the library.

Christian Neubert. Photo by Kyle Barr

Christian Neubert

As the incumbent, Christian Neubert said he feels he has become intimate with the qualities and the issues of the library over his six-year tenure.

“It’s important to not lose sight of the day-to-day processes we have going on here,” Neubert said.

Neubert said the library is missing out on the demographics of fourth- or fifth-graders as well as young professionals. He said if he were elected, he would work toward reaching out to those groups in conjunction with the library and is thinking of integrating the teen center with the main library building.

Lynn Hallarman. Photo by Kyle Barr

Lynn Hallarman

Dr. Lynn Hallarman, the director of Palliative Medicine Services at Stony Brook University Hospital said she is throwing her hat into the ring based on her unique background looking strategically at programs and institutions, as well as with urban planning, development and programming. Hallarman said the biggest changes will come to the library through urbanization, traffic, an aging population and higher taxes.

“The board has to be extremely forward thinking and out of the box in thinking about how a small-town library will survive,” she said.

Nancy Loddigs. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nancy Loddigs

Nancy Loddigs has been a resident of Port Jefferson for more than 30 years and boasts of her experience working in the libraries at Comsewogue School District and both Port Jefferson and Comsewogue public libraries.

The longtime Port Jeff resident said the library has already done a good job in its programming, with various adult programs being the most popular. She said she hopes those programs continue, but that the library will keep up with changing technology in order to stay current.

“I am interested in seeing how the library would be physically changed by incorporating all of these things,” Loddigs said. 

Wailin Ng

Wailin Ng, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been a Port Jefferson resident for a year, but she has been a patron of the library for close to a decade before that. 

Wailin Ng. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ng said there is potential for growth in the number of educational programs the library provides,

especially those that could get kids interested in STEM.

“We can increase the focus on introducing children to science,” Ng said. “We are in a very diverse community, and we have many people from other districts coming here. We need to assess where our needs are for educational programs.”

Joseph Orofino. Photo by Kyle Barr

Joseph Orofino

Joseph Orofino is a lifelong Port Jefferson resident with two kids currently in the Port Jeff school district. As a person who has worked in finance for 25 years, in both an upper management and on a voluntary basis with several local community organizations, he said he would work to make sure the library stays on top of its finances.

“My contribution could be making sure the library stays fiscally solvent,” he said.

When it comes to renovating the library’s currently owned properties, Orofino said the board should look at it from a long-term point of view.

“We need to weigh in on the existing plans and look at how financially they fit into the library on a long-term basis,” Orofino said.

      The Long Island Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson is pleased to partner with the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society to present an insightful and invaluable Cold Stun Sea Turtle Talk and Workshop on how to save sea turtles that wash up on our shores on Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
     As summer ends and the cooler fall weather finds its way to New York, the four different species of sea turtles that utilize our waters migrate south to warmer waters. Atlantic green, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles that fail to move out of our waters before the first cold snap will become hypothermic, stop swimming and eating and may wash up on our shores. When we act quickly there is a chance we can save them.
     Co-hosted by thePort Jefferson Village Center and the Port Jefferson Library, this workshop will provide participants with knowledge and skills needed to prevent these sea turtles from succumbing to the effects of the cold winter.
     To RSVP for the workshop, email Hannah at [email protected] For more information, call 631-331-3277.

Library director open to hosting it again, though no plans currently in place to do so

Drag Queen Story Hour takes place at Port Jefferson Free Library Sept. 22. Photo by Amanda Schleisner

A Port Jefferson Free Library event aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity achieved its goal for some but also inspired the opposite reaction from others.

The library hosted an event entitled Drag Queen Story Hour Sept. 22, during which a drag queen trained by children’s librarians reads picture books, sings songs, and leads children ages three to eight in craft activities. The event took place at the PJFL and about 100 people attended, according to library Director Tom Donlon. The organization, Drag Queen Story Hour, has chapters across the United States and conducts the events in an effort to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” according to its website.

I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

— Kyleen Burke

The library promoted the event on its online calendar as “a program that raises awareness of gender diversity, promotes self-acceptance, and builds empathy through an enjoyable literary experience.” During the event in Port Jeff Sept. 22, several protestors stood outside the library holding signs and verbalizing their opposition to exposing children to the message promoted by the event.

Donlon said the board of trustees got the idea from a patron of the library who said they had heard of the events taking place elsewhere.

“We liked it because the program was just about diversity,” he said. Donlon added the goal was not to get into gender or sexuality. He said in the lead up to the event he received many calls both in favor and against, though the program filled up completely in just five days.

“We kind of knew that people were going to be upset,” he said. “I was a little dismayed people saw it as an indoctrination.”

Donlon added he was disappointed people who elected to protest or oppose the event “co-opted” it to promote their own agenda. The social media buzz leading up to the event and the subsequent protests likely led to what Donlon and board President John Grossman each characterized as an unusually large turnout for its monthly public board meeting at the library Sept. 24, during which several community members spoke in favor of and against the program.

“I don’t know a lot about living in this community as an adult,” said Kyleen Burke, a 2008 graduate of Port Jeff schools who said she has just recently moved back to the community as an adult. “I was thrilled to learn about this program because going to school in Port Jeff schools, it was a really small district, and I watched kids who diverted from the norm in any way get bullied and not feel represented here unfortunately, even though this is, in large part a really loving, really beautiful place to grow up. So embracing this opportunity totally blew my mind of what this community could be, and represents just a tremendous opportunity to continue to embrace every single kid, and to make this a welcoming space despite what the norms might be. So thank you for wading into this water and for standing up for unpopular people. I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

Others stressed their concerns about the event didn’t come from a place of hate or discrimination.

“I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

— Ruben Cruzate

Ruben Cruzate, who said he participated in the protests, said his picture and contact information had been circulated on social media, leading to harassment and attacks, he said.

“The reason I’m here is because I’ve never experienced such hate and intolerance,” he said, attributing his experience following the protests to members of the LGBTQ+ community. “I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

Children’s librarian Margaret Smith said during the meeting the event was a “joyful” occasion featuring sing-alongs and stories about inclusion.

“Thank you for your courage and for sticking with this program that was proposed, investigated and was planned,” she said.

Smith and Donlon each said the library plans to hold “story hour” events with people from other walks of life on a monthly basis going forward. While no date has been set, Donlon said the library is open to hosting Drag Queen Story Hour again if the community is interested.

This post was updated Sept. 25 to remove mention of Ruben Cruzate as a resident of Port Jeff. This post was updated Sept. 26 to remove a quote from Theresa Bendel at her request.