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Sunny / Windy,61°
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Libraries serve as post-storm shelters
Patrons appreciate having a safe haven
By Ann E. Friedman
Jeffrey Bessen/Herald
Peninsula Public Library in Lawrence and the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library in Hewlett serve as safe havens for patrons after devastating storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

Millicent Vollono, head of the readers’ advisory and reference services, said in her 32 years at Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, Hurricane Sandy was the first time so many communities were impacted so severely simultaneously.

After Sandy, residents gathered at Hewlett-Woodmere and Peninsula public libraries to recharge their electronic devices, keep warm and share stories of the devastation that occurred.

“Our administration and staff derived personal and professional satisfaction from our ability to help others in what was an unprecedented time of need,” Vollono said. “The comments we received throughout the winter months let us know that our service was appreciated and made a difference in the lives of our neighbors.”

The Nassau County Library System also decided to further assist residents by waiving overdue fines and fees for lost items, as well as provide services to residents of Island Park, Long Beach and East Rockaway, as their libraries were the most severely damaged, according to Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library Director Susan O. de Sciora.

In addition, both libraries accommodated teams of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workers, who answered questions and provided assistance to residents. “These workers were from all over the country and were extremely knowledgeable, helpful and sympathetic,” de Sciora said. “Everyone at the library is always pleased to help during an emergency.”

Peninsula Public Library Director Karen Porcella said nearly 50 residents came in and out of the library daily after the storm. She also said the library was happy to assist residents. “We’re a small community and we welcome anybody,” she said. “It’s always open to all and we love to help people; that’s what we’re here for.”

North Woodmere resident Mary Randazzo was a library clerk at Peninsula Public Library for nearly two years when the hurricane struck and decided to collect plus-size clothing for area residents. “I saw women with men’s clothing on because when they went to pick up clothing donations, there were no larger sizes for them,” she said. “I asked people through Facebook and had lots of people donate at least a hundred items of clothing throughout Nassau County and Queens.”

Randazzo gained a great amount of tremendous satisfaction from assisting community residents “Paying it forward is the biggest reward,” she said.

Porcella said the library was considering purchasing a generator to operate when future storms knock out power. However, the building was built in 1961 and does not have the capability to provide electricity to the entire building. “It didn’t pay to do it,” she said. “If something happened again we would look into being open for more hours, however, we didn’t have electricity for certain parts of time.”

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