The staff of the East Meadow Public Library welcomed guests to “Hogwarts” at the library’s annual celebration of Harry Potter’s birthday on Tuesday — July 30. But instead of transforming the library building on Front Street to emulate the fictional location, the staff invited the public to a more cosmic space: the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.
“These are all of your Hogwarts skills,” Jude Schanzer, the library’s director of programming, said as she walked through the lobby of the museum among interactive stations featuring activities from J.K. Rowling’s book series.
Guests made wands out of arts-and-crafts supplies, decorated terrariums for “magical” air plants, created paper bookmarks and fortune tellers and wore the “sorting hat” to discover their Hogwarts house based on their personality.
Activities also included viewings of the Harry Potter films in the Cradle of Aviation’s amphitheater, a lesson on medicinal plants by the Friends of the Hempstead Plains educational center and a presentation on owls by the Volunteers for Wildlife rescue center.
Last year the event drew roughly 3,300 people to the East Meadow library throughout the day, and this year staffers expected just as many, which is why they opted to host the event at the museum.
The library was closed for construction from June 24 to July 22, after which it opened for limited use on its east side, near the front door, said Carol Probeyahn, the facility’s director. In the interim, it hosted programs throughout the community, with the help of local institutions and organizations such as the East Meadow Jewish Center, East Meadow United Methodist Church and the East Meadow Firefighters Benevolent Association Hall.
Library staff also set up shop at Senator Speno Memorial Park, where guests could check out or return books, Schanzer said, adding, “And now we’re here.”
“And we’re so happy to have you,” Kerri Kiker, an education coordinator at the Cradle of Aviation, responded. “We’ve had one of our busiest Julys ever, and I really think it’s because the library has hosted so many programs here.”
Kiker has attended past Harry Potter Day celebrations at the library, bringing with her the museum’s “star lab,” a map of the night sky that she used to find constellations mentioned in Rowling’s books.
Probeyahn described the partnership as symbiotic, and said that the public has welcomed the library’s transition, with lots of guests showing up at each of its programs. The construction is being funded by the community’s first joint bond, which East Meadow voters passed in March of 2017, securing $14.6 million for the library’s first major renovation since 1983.
The next phase of the project includes the construction of a theater with tiered seating on the library’s west side, which is expected to be complete by mid-October. The multipurpose room will have 250 seats, double the program room’s previous maximum occupancy.
The plan also includes infrastructure upgrades, restroom and elevator renovations and a walled-in outdoor seating area. Solar-paneled windows will be added to allow more natural light into the building, and there will be several new study rooms and a family restroom.
Library officials have not said exactly when construction will be finished, or to what extent it will affect the facility’s operations. It will continue to host programs throughout the community until early 2021. Probeyahn said that she expected the library to close again for a week in the fall.
“We appreciate the community support,” she added. Asked if the partnership with the Cradle of Aviation would continue, she said, “I don’t see why not. But our future has yet to be made.”