The first chapter for the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library’s new director, Michelle Young, will be a familiar experience. Young, who started work on May 1, joins the community after working in public libraries for over 20 years.
Most recently, she was the director of the Island Trees library, in Levittown, for six years. In Hewlett-Woodmere she succeeds William Ferro, who has moved on to direct the East Meadow library.
Young, a resident of Rockville Centre who is married and has a daughter, said she had always had an appreciation for the 75-year-old Hewlett-Woodmere facility and its community, programs and services.
“I’ve always admired the library here,” she said. “They really prioritize programming, cultural programming and just their programming in general is amazing. The community is very active here, and I became very involved in (Levittown) and I’d love to do that here.”
At Island Trees, she was a Levittown Chamber of Commerce member, and sat on the library board for two years.
Young emphasized the importance of community outreach, and saw an early example from her fellow library staffers. “The first few days were great,” she said. “I felt very welcomed, and so many people kept introducing themselves. Like, we had a staff meeting on my first day and it was really nice.”
At Island Trees, Young faced a unique challenge as the pandemic waned. “Post-Covid it was hard, because the biggest challenge libraries have is bringing people back in,” she said. “People got used to getting their services virtually and differently. People use the library but don’t come to the building. We want people to use the library, but also bring them back in.”
To help understand neighbors’ needs before and after the pandemic, Young created surveys, and discovered what Levittown patrons had missed. “People loved interacting,” she said. “Something that brought people together, such as food programs and cooking. People loved programs where they didn’t just sit and listen but actively participate, like book discussions and crafting, and I think that is what people missed doing.”
She looks to use surveys again in her new community.
“My favorite thing is outreach,” she said. “I enjoy meeting people and going to places, because to me, that’s what my job is. My job is not just to have people come in, but also to go out.”
Young earned a degree in English with a minor in marketing at Hofstra University, and a master’s in library science at Queens College.
Hewlett-Woodmere library board President Leslie Eisenberg said Young stood out in many ways. “She had — has — a good amount of experience as a library director elsewhere, which included experience in managing construction projects, budgeting and long-range planning,” Eisenberg said, “which is very important to us, because those were all critical.”
“She sees collaboration and working with others as a real strength,” Eisenberg said. “She’s got plans to meet with the community and other leaders and groups, and figure out ways that we can offer resources and services to the community.”
Young’s earliest memory of attending a library is of her grandfather taking her to the Lynbrook Public Library when she was interested in bugs. She recognized early that the library was a place for everyone.
“I always saw the library as a place where I was welcomed, and my curiosity was welcomed,” she said. “To me, it’s the freedom to think that helps give you perspectives on things you didn’t know.”