The North Merrick Public Library recently named a new director, Jackie Perez, to assume its leadership duties, following the departure of Susan Santa, the library’s previous director. Santa announced she was leaving the library in April. Her last month there was this May.
Perez, who lives in North Merrick, attended Sanford H. Calhoun High School, just down the road from the library. She enrolled in the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. for her undergraduate studies, where she was an English major. Perez then obtained her master’s in library science from the Pratt Institute in New York City and recently completed a certificate in public library administration from New York University.
Perez said she was attracted to library science for a few reasons.
“I’ve always been a reader,” she said. “But I also loved the idea of working in the community and working for the public good, and serving them in that way. It’s really been such a privilege to work in the community and get to know people here.”
Perez is no stranger to the North Merrick library. She still lives in the community with her husband and two young sons, and has led the library’s children’s department for almost five years.
“Not only have I grown up in this community and I work in this community, but my kids are going to school in this community,” she said. “I’m the most invested you could be.”
Upon Santa’s departure, Perez was named acting director of the library, and was officially offered the role as its new permanent leader at the end of July.
Many building projects are coming up at the library, Perez said, but something she oversaw while at the children’s department was a remodeling of the children’s room.
“The children’s room was very well loved, but old fashioned,” she said. “I’ve been really fortunate to have people with me that helped me modernize the children’s room and offer diverse programming. We’ve changed the selection and we’ve really grown a great deal.”
The library is now in the process of creating a new, outdoor pavilion.
“We are building an outdoor pavilion in the area behind the library,” Perez said. “That came about during Covid, when we moved all of our programs outside and online. We realized how much we loved outdoor programming, and that’s something in children’s that I really spearheaded.
“We moved all our story times outside — anything we could do outside, we did,” she added. “We realized that we loved it, but we want to do it for more seasons and when it’s raining, so we’re building this very large pavilion, and we’re planning to have children’s programs, adult concerts, adult craft nights and teen programs out there. That should be really cool.”
While the library’s building itself isn’t huge, Perez said, it has a lot of outdoor property. Libraries have found that a lot of people prefer outdoor events post-pandemic.
“We don’t have the biggest building,” she said, “but we have a beautiful piece of property. We really have been able to leverage it, to have like a summer reading kickoff for the whole community and other big events. Having that space, it’s been such a blessing.”
While there isn’t a permanent person in charge of the children’s room just yet, Perez said the whole department and its staff members have really flourished.
“I look forward to giving it (to) the next person,” she said. “I’m hoping they keep being innovative and creative with their programs and want enrichment for the community.”
Perez said she wants to remain involved and engaged with the community, and encourage learning.
“The bullet points and things that I’m looking forward to doing here is continuing to foster a relationship with the community, the school districts, local businesses — to let the community know that this is their library,” she said. “It’s theirs, and they’re welcome to make it however they want it to be.”