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Oceanside Library remains vital community resource online during coronavirus pandemic

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In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Oceanside library has launched dozens of online programs and projects designed to provide the community with information, education and entertainment.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continued to grow, the library closed to the public on March 13, but administrators have offered plenty of ways for the facility to remain a vital part of the community during this trying time.

“As soon as we closed, our staff held numerous teleconferences and shared ideas on how we could continue to serve the public,” Library Director Christina Marra said. “Using online conferencing services, we were able to have a wide-range of programs up and running almost immediately. We also set up a page on our website with links to reliable sources of information, something we specialize in and which is so important in these scary and troubling times.”

The library now hosts six to 10 online programs per day, including story times, lectures, exercise classes, teen readings, book chats, book discussions, poetry readings, TED talk discussions and more.

“We reached out to several of our key partners right away,” said Ocaria DiMango, the library’s adult program coordinator. “Molloy College’s Center for Mental Health and Wellness did a program on how to cope with the stress of this crisis, and Dr. Ronan of Baldwin Harbor Pediatrics did a lecture on how this affects children, and how to keep them healthy. Both of them regularly do programs for us when we are open.”

DiMango said that the library has partnered with some of its regular programmers to provide online content, including their yoga, meditation and art presenters, and that more lectures and programs are upcoming.

Michelle Samuel, the head of children’s services, is running three story times per day.

“All of our librarians have jumped in, and we have had a number of guest readers,” she said. “Sen. Todd Kaminsky and County Legislator Debra Mulé have already read for us, and County Executive Laura Curran and Assemblywoman [Judy] Griffin are scheduled to read to our children in the next week or so.”

Marra noted that the library board has been productive during the crisis.

“They immediately mandated that all employees be paid their normal compensation, including part-timers, and that our presenters be paid for the programs we are cancelling,” she said. “Many of these people, like our ‘Play Hooray’ presenters, are local people working for themselves or small companies. We didn’t want to see anyone get hurt to the extent we can help it. Our board has supported the innovative efforts we brought to them. For example, anyone who doesn’t have a library card can now obtain a temporary digital library card that will let them access our online resources, and our Board has let us add a lot more of those resources.”

Tony Iovino, the library’s assistant director for community services, spoke online for the Long Island Library Resource Council before 100 staff members from other Long Island libraries on Oceanside’s response.

“I spoke about our great team, and about the culture we have created which allowed us to move so nimbly,” he said. “No one else has the online programming we have, either in numbers or diversity. I have had dozens of inquiries from all over the country about our response and how other libraries can follow us.”

The library has started reading clubs for all ages, similar to the summer reading clubs held annually, with prizes donated by the Friends of the Oceanside Library. The Library also instituted a number of events, like having staff members play Words with Friends against patrons, and a life skills challenge, where the library asks teens to post photos or Tik Tok videos of them doing chores around the house.

“Our Project Coordinator Deborah Keehner, the parent of two Oceanside students, has been invaluable in creating programs, pushing through ideas, and working on our social media,” Iovino said. “She has also given us a parent’s perspective and allowed us to mold programs to their needs.”

As for the next few weeks, library administrators intend to keep expanding its online presence. For more details, visit oceansidelibrary.org.

Courtesy Oceanside Library; compiled by Mike Smollins