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Library writes new chapters during the pandemic

No tax increase in proposed budget

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Despite the coronavirus, the Long Beach Library is writing new chapters to its pages -- developing fresh programs for residents of all ages and reaching out to people who may be alone or need a break from the anxiety of the plague.

Under the leadership of Library Director Tara Lannen-Stanton, the library is holding an average of 30 new virtual programs a week. Lannen-Stanton, along with her staff, has found success in virtual programs such as Long Beach Memories, a program that discusses the history of Long Beach and Thursday Night Trivia, where winners can win gift cards to local businesses. Lannen-Stanton said the trivia program could have as many 60 people, depending on topics.

“We’ve really been doing a lot of experimenting,” Lannen-Stanton said. “Some things have not worked and we put it to the side, and others really worked beyond our wildest expectation. We’re constantly reassessing and figuring the best ways to serve the people of Long Beach.”

Lannen-Stanton said that the programs have attracted people of all ages and even those who were hesitant to use technology. She added that many of the interactive programs have helped many residents get a sense of community, while isolated at home.

One service Lannen-Stanton highlighted was a weekly phone check-in program for Long Beach residents. She said the staff currently has about 25 people they call regularly, and they wanted to add more. Whether they are living alone or just need a break from whoever they’re living with, Lannen-Stanton encourages people to take advantage of the service.

The library is also looking to add online concerts, author visits and will add a food and cooking programs called “I’m just here for the food,” which is expected to start on June 1 at 4 p.m.

The library will also start making personalized book and movie recommendations for patrons. Patrons can fill out a form stating their preference and librarians will work to try and make recommendations based on their preferences.

All the virtual programs will extend past the mandatory quarantine and last into the summer. Lannen-Stanton said the library administration is working on a four-step plan to reopen, but first has to receive approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The library staff is currently in phase one of a plan to re-open. Afterwards, it will be creating contactless checkout and will try to safely bring back staff to the building.

The highest priorities for servicing patrons would be evaluated in the last two steps of the reopening plan.

“We’re really focusing on reopening in gradual steps that really ensure community and staff safety,” Lannen-Stanton said. “There’s a little uncertainty of where libraries fit in terms of the phasing for reopening, while we’re waiting for that guidance, we’re preparing for what that would look like.”

During the pandemic, the Library Board of Trustee has also proposed a 2020-21 budget with no property tax increase. Lannen-Stanton said that she was planning to ask for a tax increase, but with the pandemic straining the economy, the board decided against asking for any increase this year.

“We know the library can tighten its belt for a year, while our community recovers,” Lannen-Stanton said.

The proposed budget would be $3,633,184. The library serves about 13,500 households and the average cost per household would be about $260. The library will be using funds from its operational surplus, but Lannen-Stanton said that as the economy improves, the staff will re-visit the budget in the future.

Along with the budget vote on June 9, Robin Donovan and James Kirklin are vying for an open seat on the library board. The election and budget vote will be held through an absentee ballot this year. The ballots will be sent out by the end of this week and need to be returned by June 9.

For more information on the library or to give a suggestion, visit www.longbeachlibrary.org.