Many people wouldn’t group the music and library industries together, but Dan Chuzmir contends that they are more alike than many think. He admitted that while his former career as an audio engineer for SiriusXM is “very different” from his current role as the Merrick Library director, both fields offer spaces where creativity can flourish.
“The one thing I really took away from working with musicians is the benefits of having a really creative atmosphere,” Chuzmir said in his sunlit office. “When you foster an environment where people feel like they can be creative, interesting things happen. People feel at home, they feel inspired, and they feel like it’s a place they want to be.”
With this sentiment in mind, Chuzmir said he wants to enhance and expand the library’s offerings as its new director, a job title that became official on Jan. 1. He was the assistant director for two years under former director Ellen Firer, who recently retired after 15 years.
“I met Dan originally at a conference, and I was impressed with his intelligence and ability to clearly get the message across,” Firer recalled. “I brought him in on everything I was doing on a regular basis, and he picked up everything very quickly.”
Chuzmir, 45, of Port Washington, recalls hanging out in his hometown library growing up, but said that working in one never occurred to him. At SiriusXM, he met a punk rock singer who was pursuing a degree in library and information science.
“He got an internship at the Woody Guthrie archive” — a public museum in Tulsa, Okla., dedicated to the life and legacy of the American folk musician — “and I was like, ‘That sounds really cool,’” Chuzmir said. Shortly afterward, he earned a master’s from Queens College in 2013.
Chuzmir was hired as a full-time librarian at the Port Washington Public Library after graduation, and quickly moved up the ranks. In 2018, he was ready for something new, and applied to become Merrick’s assistant director.
Under Firer’s directorship, Chuzmir handled more administrative aspects of the job such as compiling annual reports, interviewing new hires and managing the budget. The former director said they “did a lot of visioning together” to keep the library on the cutting edge, a practice that has continued into Chuzmir’s term.
‘A library of experiences’
The director outlined a handful of new initiatives that are in the works. To increase the library’s technology programming, Chuzmir is further championing the development of its makerspace — the first in Nassau County, he said. In makerspaces, people with shared interests in computing or technology can work together on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge.
In Merrick’s makerspace, patrons can learn how to use 3D printers. Chuzmir said he planned to expand instructional programming and hire new employees to make the space more active, and would eventually like to add virtual reality technology for patrons’ use and entertainment.
Acknowledging an increased demand for children’s programs and materials, he said he planned to revamp the Children’s Room, which, over the past three years, has become “the most active place in the library.” In addition to programming, patrons can expect aesthetic improvements like new furniture, seating and carpeting.
Chuzmir said he also wanted to expand opportunities for the library’s “readers community” by doubling the number of author visits. Additionally, patrons will soon be able to borrow non-reading materials from the library through its new loan program, which Chuzmir said offers a range of items, including musical instruments, telescopes, binoculars and streaming devices.
“There’s a lot of movement now towards libraries loaning things,” he said, “but I like to think of it as a library of experiences.”
‘A balancing act’
Alluding to the parallels between a recording studio and a book stack, Chuzmir said managing a library is “a balancing act.”
“Our entire downstairs area . . . stays very quiet because we have a lot of people coming in and doing work there,” he said, “but people are also looking for a space for interaction or entertainment. We really want to be a place where people feel like they can come for a whole range of needs.”
Firer said that Chuzmir also took her place on the Nassau Library System’s Reinvention Committee, which aims to offer the best services to libraries countywide. His participation, she said, would continue to propel the Merrick Library forward.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Firer said. “He’s a wonderful person, father and husband, and to me he’s become a very good friend. I’m convinced that he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Chuzmir encouraged residents to reach out and provide suggestions so that he and his staff can find new ways to serve the community. “We love involvement,” he said. “Any way we can get people involved, we welcome it.”