On Feb. 10, Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin, appearing with local library directors, announced that the town had approved more than $340,000 in grants to support several public libraries in the township (see box). West Hempstead’s and Lakeview’s public libraries were among the beneficiaries of the town grants.
The funds will come from the federal CARES Act, which Congress passed and former President Trump signed into law last March.
“When Covid-19 first hit, we had to purchase all of the [personal protective equipment] ourselves,” said West Hempstead Public Library Director Regina Mascia. “We had to pull money from other areas, so we were totally unprepared for that expense. This funding will be very helpful for us going forward.”
Each library will receive more than $20,000 to help pay for unbudgeted expenses incurred during the pandemic. Clavin said that the funding would also allow the facilities to continue to provide essential programs and services to their communities.
“They might have lost some sort of benefit they’d given the community,” he explained. “No one in our town was spared from the impacts of this pandemic and the financial toll it has taken, [and] 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, with Covid-19 safety measures in place, including 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 the reconfiguration of library spaces to maintain social distancing.
“We’ve had tremendous turnouts for our virtual programs, but I think what people miss the most is being able to have programs in-house,” Mascia said. “It was very nice to be acknowledged by the town supervisor and for people to realize that libraries are an essential part of the community.”
At the Lakeview Library, librarian Ivy Reckson said she was grateful for the town’s support, and added that the funds would help the library carry out its mission of “preserving yesterday, informing today and inspiring tomorrow.”
“We’ve already purchased cleaning supplies and PPE with the funds,” Reckson said, “which will allow us to serve Lakeview and the surrounding communities in a safe manner without having to sacrifice other aspects of our library and collection.”
Clavin’s announcement took place outside the Levittown Public Library. Levittown Library Trustee Steve Dalton commended town officials for their support. “There are two broad purposes for this money,” he said. “It’s one, to make in-person library use safer for our patrons and our staff, and two, to expand digital and virtual access to library materials.”
Digital and virtual access includes lending hot spot devices and installing Wi-Fi routers and boosters so patrons can access the library’s Wi-Fi during off hours.
Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby noted that the libraries could also use the funds to develop virtual literacy programs, to teach children how to use computer programs, like Zoom, and help them adjust to remote learning.
Councilman Christopher Carini fondly recalled leading Seaford Civic Association meetings at the Seaford Public Library, and Councilman Anthony D’Esposito described the facilities as “a central location for meetings” that bring community members together. “No one could have anticipated the impact that Covid-19 would have on libraries and so many other aspects of our daily lives,” D’Esposito said, “and these relief funds will go a long way to helping them get back on their feet.”