Concerns Over New Library

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libraryboardmeetingaA small group of Great Neck residents gathered before the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees to express concerns about the newly renovated Main Branch. The meeting, which took place at the Parkville Branch on Monday, Dec. 19, was preceded by a moment of silence in honor of Lakeville Branch Head Librarian Ruth Klement, who had died five days earlier (read “Remembering Lakeville Branch Head Librarian Ruth Klement“).

“At the last branch meeting, she was very enthusiastic,” said board member Michael Fuller. “Lakeville benefited tremendously. The programs, the functions, she was very enthusiastic about those. So she will be missed.”

Following the renovations to the Main Branch, several Great Neck “mommies” had compiled a list of grievances claiming that, among other things, the library was no longer a suitable place for children due to the presence of an automatic door. Several parents worried that the door would allow their children to roam the outside parking lot, which is located near a pond.

libraryboardmeetingc“The first is this issue with this [automatic] door that is in the middle of the children’s room and it cannot be,” said Kate Goldberg, who was there on behalf of several of the other mommies. “Many people want to use it because with a stroller it is easier to come through. So, I guess the automatic should be shut down and we need a push button.”

The board said that the door issue was already being resolved and that it was important for parents to take extra care with their kids.

“I’m not accusing all mommies of this, but it seems that there are some people who view the library as a sort of a babysitter,” Fuller said. “The kids cannot be left unattended,” he continued. “Whatever they’re doing, there has to be a parent nearby. Nothing we do, no program that we provide is a substitute for having a parent available in that room at all times.”

There were also concerns about space issues for the library’s children’s programs, particularly the holiday programs. The board noted that the library would be looking to increase its number of holiday programs in the future, but Goldberg still questioned why popular programs were held in the smaller rooms of the library as opposed to the community room, which is larger.

libraryboardmeetingb“I came five hours after the [tickets went on sale] and two places, because they were so small, were already gone. If there’s a space issue two months after the renovation of the library, what have we done?” asked Goldberg.

“If it’s a popular program, it needs to go into the larger space. The community room [still] has to be wired,” Board President Marietta DiCamillo explained, adding that the room should be ready sometime in January. “Once the community room gets established, that’s the room it has to be in.”

Board member Robert Schaufeld added, “One of the reasons that we have preregistration for programs is so that we can anticipate how many people are coming and we can accommodate them with our facilities. We have the space available and if we know that there’s a tremendous demand for a program, we can move it into a larger space.”

Other residents claimed that the library had eliminated several toys and sculptures from the library after the renovation. While several board members acknowledged that some of the items from the old library were not on display, they clarified that the items had not been disposed of and would eventually be restored. DiCamillo, in asking residents to be patient, offered this analogy:

“This is comparable to moving into a new house and having boxes that get put in some strange room somewhere,” she said. “We’re going to get there.”

Read “Parents Concerned Over Library Renovations,” and these readers’ letters “How Residents, Taxpayers And Families Feel About Library Renovation” and “Library Concerns Not Taken Seriously.”

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Joseph Catrone is the editor of Farmingdale Observer, Hicksville News, Levittown Tribune and Massapequa Observer. He is also a contributing writer to Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mr. Catrone,

    I read your article regarding the GN library and as one of the mothers concerned I would like to clarify a few issues.

    There has been an email and phone campaign caregivers started expressing their concern. (please not this has nothing to do with mothers, children of all ages use the library with their caregivers, that could be an older sibling, grandparent, babysitter or either parent) There has also been an online petition at http://www.petitions24.com/library_changes_to_the_newly_renovated_main_branch

    As you will see not a SINGLE point requests babysitting services.

    The bottom line concerns are 1. The space is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller 2. Does not serve children and families of all ages 3. Does not serve its expectations of enriching and emboldening children of all ages to linger, learn and explore new thoughts, ideas, books.

    I could meet with you and show you a walk through of the current extremely underwhelming and diminished family experience the library now offers. This is much less than what they used to have and in addition is nowhere near comparable to what other local libraries are offering (manhasset, port washington) after 2 years and millions of dollars we had expected more than this.

    The response we are met with by the board is 1. we are not your babysitters 2. please be patient. This is not a question of unpacking, this is a question of poorly designed and utilized space.

    These are serious concerns that are NOT being taken seriously. Would you like to hear what residents, taxpayers and Great Neck families have to say about this?

    Regards,

    Maral Yashar

  2. Dear Mr. Catrone:
    As a great neck resident, a tax payer, and as one of the “Mommies” I find not only the tone of your article offensive but also the response of the board members extremely offensive. Your repeated use of “Mommies” is filled with misogynistic implications, as if we can’t be mothers and be serious, be tax payers, have our concerns taken seriously because they are in fact serious. We are tax payers and residents who have serious concerns over the use of our community’s resources, which have been misused and misallocated. It’s not a small group of “mommies”, we are a large segment of the Great Neck population. And yes we are mothers but that does not diminish our valid concerns.
    Libraries are the often the beginning of literacy for young children. They go there excited to play and parents use it as an introduction to books. The misuse of the renovation money and the lack of attention to this very important demographic has robbed an entire young generation of that fun, educational library experience that set the tone for their future literacy.
    Other communities nearby have been able to balance the needs of older people while devoting substantial space and resources to children. I invite you to visit the Manhasset library or the Port Washington library, both with entire floors dedicated solely for a children’s section with books, toys, quiet spaces, and computers.
    You have the board have failed at reporting and addressing the concerns that were expressed to the board regarding the library, please see this petition that was signed by many concerned residents of Great Neck.
    Safety and Functionality
    1. The children’s department has an automatic door that opens directly out to the pond and the parking lot. Every time a child passes this door it opens. Several toddlers have made their way out of the building with parents and caretakers running behind.
    2. Lack of appropriate toddler/preschool space – Before renovations the children’s department had a toddler area with board books and toys. This was a safe space for little ones to play while their older siblings did homework and checked out books. Currently there is no safe space for toddlers and preschoolers to be read to and play.
    3. Unprepared for after-school hours – between the hours of 3-7 families come in with all their children. They want to check out books for their elementary aged children to do school assignments. They want a place for their younger ones to play and explore. The current layout is not designed for families with children of several ages.

    Promoting literacy and social skills
    1. Lack of proper amount of shelving – several children have asked for books only to be told that they are in storage. With the significantly smaller amount of shelves, we wonder if these books will make their way to the department and if there will be room for them.
    2. Toddler and Preschool aged books- There is a noticeable reduction of board books and preschool appropriate literature. There no longer exists a place for our youngest readers to read and explore.
    3. Access to technology – Before renovations children were encouraged/required to have a parent/caretakers permission to use available technology. The current setup of prominent tablet stations where children may freely consume technology is detracting from the time children should be using to do Homework, explore books, and play with other children outside of their social circles.
    4. Incomplete series of elementary and upper elementary books- Children have expressed disappointment that certain series of books are incomplete.
    5. Toys – parents and caretakers visit the library with children of all ages. The children used to have an assortment of toys and puzzles available to them at any time of day. This has now been limited to certain hours with librarians unable to accommodate patrons at other more crucial times.
    6. Programing – The programing so far seems to only accommodate pre-schoolers that can make it into the library during school/work hours. Patrons are looking for classes that can also be offered on Sundays and Evening hours.

    Staff Morale
    1. The staff is clearly frustrated with the functionality of the children’s department and it is now trickling down into how the patrons are being treated. Below are examples of how patrons have been treated since the opening.
    a. Being told to put a toddler in front of an ipad to play instead of giving access to toys, once she has tired of reading.
    b. Expressing dismay when several books requested by children are in storage, with no answer of when they can be gotten.
    c. Frequently re-shelving books taken down by toddlers as there is no safe space for them to sit while their older siblings explore.
    d. not allowing strollers in as there is no longer ample space.

    The impression the new children’s department gives is that children and families are no longer welcome and valued members of the library. Literacy begins early. The public schools are the crown jewel of Great Neck. The main branch was once a significant contributor to the education of children growing up in Great Neck.
    The new department is not comparable to what it was before the renovations and certainly not to other Nassau County libraries. This is really a shame as there was so much potential. Please consider these concerns to be of urgent priority. If solutions are not put in place with an urgency the library will lose its most important patrons and fail to serve a large portion of the community.

    We are looking to address the following issues:
    -1) Shut down the automatic door to the pond in the middle of the children’s room. Need to make it a push button or a passcode to open.
    2) Lack of any children appropriate decoration
    3) Lack of any toys and moving and crawling areas for smaller kids.
    4) More books on display. Also, more non-fiction books for kids.
    5) More helpful or more informed librarians. Add staff, since they need to bring books in.
    6) Connect playing and reading areas in one big open space for families with kids of different ages.
    7) Playroom should be open day long. Now it is only accessible from 1:30 to 3:30 (end of school and nap time for many babies).
    8) Place one security guard.
    9) Holiday shows – more and in the main branch since it has bigger room.
    10) Children’s program should be more easily available. Same day registration should be possible. The play room is too small for all interested. It should be relocated to community room if demand is big.
    11)Exposed outlets in the iPad area; there should be docking stations with electricity underneath; the outlets and plugs are all exposed;

    Respectfully,
    Farnaz Hakimian, Esq.
    Great Neck Mom,y

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