Local libraries gear up for summer challenge

‘Pub crawl’ of a different kind encourages reading

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Libraries in Merrick and Bellmore are joining a countywide effort to spice up the summer by inviting residents to participate in the 2019 Nassau Library Tour challenge.

All but two of the county’s 54 libraries will participate in a special kind of scavenger hunt. “We’re really just trying to have people experience the beautiful public libraries in Nassau County,” said Renee McGrath, manager of youth services for the Nassau Library System.

The challenge requires participants to visit as many county libraries as possible, between July 1 and Aug. 31, according to McGrath. “We really feel that visiting the libraries is a great way to explore everything that Nassau County has to offer during the summer,” she said. “There’s no better place than Long Island during the summer. By going on the Nassau Library Tour, I think it’s a fun and free way to experience everything that all the communities have to offer.”

“It’s a great idea,” Merrick Public Library Director Ellen Firer said. “It’s very beneficial to allow people to see the unique services each library offers. The Nassau libraries all work together and share a lot of services — we’re thrilled for people to get a look.”

“It’s not only a great way for people to see other libraries, it’s great for just getting to look at new areas,” added Elaine Cummings-Young, director of the Bellmore Memorial Library.

McGrath said participants in the challenge may start at any of the county’s libraries by receiving a map from the information desk. Each library is marked off after the participant completes a visit. Players who stop by five libraries receive a temporary tattoo. At 15 libraries, adults get a car magnet, while children win special stickers. When 30 libraries are ticked off, participants earn soda can koozies — insulated sleeves for cans, bottles or cups — and after 45, adults obtain enamel tour pins, with children receiving astronaut helmets.

Participants who visit 45 libraries will also be entered into a grand-prize raffle — with items such as museum passes or restaurant gift cards. The raffle winners will be drawn in early September. “The prizes are just a little inspiration and incentive, but it’s not the main focus of it,” McGrath said. “It really is the experience that you can design yourself.”

Additionally, each library has its own scavenger hunt item. “You can go around at each library, you can find the item that they’ve designated as their unique item to find, you can take a selfie with it, and then maybe put it on social media and hashtag Nassau Library Tour,” she said. Each library offers clues to help find the item.

Visitors to the Merrick Library, for instance, will see a trail of fish on the floor, which leads to their item placed in the children’s room. Because the Merrick Library had the first “makerspace” on Long Island, Firer said, participants win a 3D printed fish after successfully completing the hunt.

At the Bellmore Library, once visitors find the library’s antique Long Island Rail Road lantern, Cummings-Young added, they will receive a bookmark with information about surrounding restaurants and parks.

McGrath said that anyone can participate — no library cards are necessary.

The idea for the challenge came to McGrath last June, after speaking with a friend who told her that millennials want freedom to design their own experiences within overarching events. She then began to think of a way to add creativity to the libraries’ summer reading programs. “I wanted to design something that people [would be] able to create their own experiences around visiting libraries,” she said.

After hearing about a one-day library crawl involving 10 libraries in Massachusetts, McGrath ran with the idea, adapting it for the Nassau County libraries. “If we could do it over the summer during summer reading, where people are coming to the libraries too, it would be a great way of promoting not only the libraries but our communities here on Long Island,” she said.

McGrath, who explained the challenge as a “pub crawl without the alcohol,” said she believes it is an opportunity for children to learn from different communities. “And then for the millennials, I really do think it’s a fun way of getting together with friends,” she said.

Nassau Library System Director Caroline Ashby said, in a statement, that the libraries throughout the county are the gateways to Nassau’s towns. “This summer, we hope you’ll challenge yourself to visit as many communities as you can and experience each library’s unique local flavor,” she said. “What better way to explore the history, cultures and attractions throughout Nassau?”

A map and more information can also be found on tour.nassaulibrary.org.

Andrew Garcia contributed to this story.