As a Great Neck resident, a taxpayer and as one of the “mommies,” I find not only the tone of Joseph Catrone’s article offensive, but also the response of the board members to be extremely offensive. Catrone’s repeated use of mommies is filled with misogynistic implications, as if we can’t be mothers and be serious. But, they are, in fact, serious. We have serious concerns over the use of our community’s resources, which have been misused and misallocated. It’s not just a small group of mommies who are concerned, but a large segment of the Great Neck population. And, yes, we are mothers, but that does not diminish our valid concerns.
Libraries are 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 sets 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 Public Library or the Port Washington Public Library, both with entire floors dedicated solely for a children’s section with books, toys, quiet spaces and computers.
You have failed to report and the board has failed to address the concerns that were expressed 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 and 7 when families come in with all their children. They want to check out books for their elementary-age 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 age 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/caretaker’s 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 programming so far seems to only accommodate preschoolers who can make it into the library during school/work hours. Patrons are looking for classes that can also be offered on Sundays and during evening hours.
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 reshelving 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 nonfiction 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 all day long. Now it is only accessible from 1:30 to 3:30 (end of school and naptime for many babies).
8) Place one security guard.
9) Holiday shows. More and in the main branch since it has a bigger room.
10) Children’s program should be more easily available. Same day registration should be possible. The playroom is too small for all interested. It should be relocated to the 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.
—Farnaz Hakimian, Esq.