Earlier this month, alongside local library directors, Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin announced the approval of more than $340,000 in grants to support several public libraries within the township. The allocation was made possible by funding through the federal CARES Act, which was secured by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer last year.
Each institution, including the North Bellmore Public Library, will receive a roughly $20,000 grant to help pay for unbudgeted expenses incurred during the pandemic. Clavin said the funding will also allow library staffers to continue to provide programs and services to their communities.
“No one in our town was spared from the impacts of this pandemic and the financial toll it has taken,” Clavin said. “We are proud to be able to provide this funding to our neighborhood libraries so they can continue serving the residents of Hempstead Town.”
Most libraries have continued to offer a full complement of services throughout the pandemic with Covid-19 safety measures in place. These include high-grade Plexiglas shields for circulation and reference desks, personal protective equipment for staff, daily sanitizing procedures, UV-lighting to disinfect books and printed materials and reconfiguration of library spaces to maintain social distancing.
"Libraries provide essential programs and services to the community,” said Councilman Dennis Dunne, who represents the town’s 6th Councilmanic District. “The Town of Hempstead is proud to provide more than $300,000 to assist these important neighborhood institutions."
Interim Director Jessica Tymecki said the North Bellmore Public Library received $14,693 in CARES money to cover the cost of pandemic-related expenses, which include personal protective equipment, Plexiglas installation at public service desks, upgraded HVAC filters and increased cleaning and sanitation of the facility.
“We had zero increase in our budget last year, so it was already tight to begin with,” Tymecki said. “We are extremely grateful for the Town of Hempstead for recognizing the libraries.”
Adjusting to the new normal
While the pandemic has changed how the library engages with the community, it hasn't stopped staff from providing patrons with the information, education, support and entertainment they typically rely on.
Because of widespread closures last spring, North Bellmore turned into a virtual library “basically overnight,” Tymecki said, offering online programs for all ages. It started a “Grab and Go” pickup program that bundled books and other materials for patrons to take home, and lent Wi-Fi hotspot devices to residents to use for telehealth visits, online schooling, job searching and more.
“I personally delivered craft bundles to patrons . . . to keep them busy while they were at home,” Tymecki said.
The building reopened for limited capacity last July, which Tymecki recalled as “an interesting experience.” In the past, “We always had a full house,” she said. “It was difficult to put limitations on the public, but we wanted them to know we were taking these safety measures.”
As time went on, the library resumed more in-person services while maintaining pandemic programs. NBPL recently hosted an on-site blood drive and hopes to expand in-building offerings to make use of its revamped facility, the result of a more than year-long construction project completed in summer 2019.
The beginning of a new chapter
Tymecki noted that within the past year, the library’s eBook usage increased by 75 percent. She said some of the CARES Act funding will be used for future eBook purchases to keep up with the growing demand.
Additionally, the library created a new website to handle an increase in virtual demand and engagement. The new user-friendly platform makes it easier for patrons to access online resources and virtual experiences, Tymecki said.
“We are constantly adapting and readjusting our operations in response to the pandemic in order to support our community,” she added. “The community depends on us, and we are ready to rise to the occasion.”
The North Bellmore Public Library is at 1551 Newbridge Road. For more information, visit www.northbellmorelibrary.org.