Friday, July 27, 2012

Generous Patrons Give Blood

In a testament to the generosity of our patrons, the Great Neck Library's Blood Drive collected 45 pints of blood at our Blood Drive on Wednesday, the most in several years!  We held our drive from 1:30 to 7:30 and the wonderful professionals from the New York Blood Center screened and took care of the donors with smiles and music playing and yummy snacks at the end.

During the brief time that I was there to give blood, I saw donors as young as 16 years old come in to donate for the first time as well as older folks who are regular donors.

It might have been a bigger draw than usual because of the free Mets tickets the New York Blood Center was offering.  I don't know.  But we are grateful nonetheless for everyone's generosity.

If you were not able to join us on July 25th, you can go online to the New York Blood Center and find where the next blood drive nearest you will take place.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Music for a Summer Evening

I am excited to report that our first evening of our second year of the series, "Music for a Summer Evening" here at the Great Neck Library was a rousing success last night.  We began our series with a saxaphone quartet called "Four Saxy Guys" and using alto, soprano, tenor and baritone saxes created a magnificent sound.

Led by Marcello Blanco (a Great Neck native and former Levels kid) and featuring Frank Benvenuto, Richard Nasto and Anthony Pomponio, the group treated its enthusiastic audience to music from the jazz age, the ragtime era and much more, even throwing in a little Beethoven and Beatles.

I hope you can join us next week, on July 19th for something completely different, a duo called Nina Et Cetera who will entertain you with both original songs and original takes on music legends such as Elvis, Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie and more. Nina and Tim with use guitar, harmonica, auto harp, piano, foot percussion, bass and something called porchboard bass.  I don't know what that is, but join me next week and we'll find out together.  Here they are.  See you on the 19th! 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building Advisory Committee

Since January, the newly-formed Building Advisory Committee or BAC for short has met twice a month to determine what needs to be done to get our Main Library renovated.  The committee, ably chaired by Trustee Marietta DiCamillo, has trustees, staff members (including myself), members of the public and some volunteers experts, engineers, architects and project managers who have agreed to lend their expertise to the process.

In January, the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees voted to renovate the Main Library within its existing footprint and not to expand.  So the committee is studying each department and each service the library provides to determine if the department or service needs to grow or shrink; where it could be located and whether or not portions of the collection or services could be moved from Main to one of the branches.

Minutes from all the meetings held to date are on our website so please read them and if you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please feel free to email me, call me or comment on this blog.  And all the meetings are open to the public.  You can find the schedule on our website as well.

Join us and become part of the process.  This is your library!  We want to make it efficient, beautiful and user-friendly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Books -- Some people still like to turn pages!

I read an article in today's New York Times that reports a brisk business and strong sales for many bookstores this holiday season.  While I am sure that Nooks and Kindles will be unwrapped by lots of people this year, Barnes and Noble reported today that this year's Thanksgiving weekend sales increased by 10.9 percent over last year.  Private book stores report similar boosts in sales.

What can this mean?  Does it mean, perhaps, that books are not dead?  Can it be that people still like to turn pages?  When I heard it reported recently on the radio (yes, I still have one of those too) that there have been technical difficulties with the new Kindle Fire, I took comfort in knowing that the only technical difficulty I have with my copy of Alice Hoffman's newest book, The Dovekeepers, is finding time to read it!

While we celebrate the advance of technology we still celebrate books.  Whenever I go into our book processing section, I feel a certain thrill at seeing all the new copies of the latest books lined up waiting for our patrons.  And while it's certainly a lot easier to carry one Kindle than the hundreds of books Amazon says a Kindle can hold, there's nothing like the tactile experience of reading a book.  Although I find it interesting that in advertising its new Kindle Fire, Amazon's description touts Kindle's  "movies, apps, games, music, reading and more."  Do you notice that reading is #5 on the list of five activities, right ahead of the all-purpose phrase, "and more"?

If reading is your number one activity, stop by the Library.  We can help you download books to your portable e-reader or if you'd like to avoid technical difficulties and turn some pages, we will help you find a book with pages to turn -- and we'll throw in a bookmark at no additional charge.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Building still Needs Fixing!

Here is a list I recently prepared for our Library Board of the problems that exist in our Main Library. 

Building Plans
I have surveyed the building for areas and issues that are important to address and reviewed the engineer’s report submitted as part of the Dattner Concept Report.  The first several points listed below are taken from that engineer’s report, dated June 12, 2009. In the intervening 2 ½ years, all of these problems listed below have only become more pronounced.

Mechanical and Electrical
  • The boiler, which would have a few more years of useful life, contains inherent problems, because of a poor installation which has lead to cracked sections and gasket leaks. In the last two years, we have paid significant amounts to repair leaks in the boiler.
  •  The HVAC  system, as we know, has a tower that is no longer viable, reheat coils that are at the end of their useful life expectancy, and ventilation fans that are old and in need of replacement.  
  • The electrical service and power distribution system, as described in the report, had yet to be tested to ascertain whether their condition is adequate.  However, the numerous power supply problems in 2011 alone indicate that the library does not have an electrical system that is adequate. Our electrician has made 9 service calls to repair problems ranging from new circuitry to replacing defective and inefficient light fixtures.  In addition all exit lighting is of the original installation.
  • Fire Alarm System:  This system is of the original installation and is nearing the end of its useful life, according to the engineer’s report.  From personal experience, during the fire drill that was run at Main it took much longer to reset the system due to its age.  The pull boxes in Main are original and much smaller and harder to use than newer installations. 
  • Roof and storm water systems:  Storm water is currently collected on flat roofs and drained through two 8-inch and one 10-inch storm leader which terminate on the lower level of the building discharging directly into Udall’s Pond.  All exposed piping appears to be in “fair” condition.
  • The roof appears to be in fair to poor condition and the roof drains should be replaced when the building is re-roofed.  The roof under the cooling tower is not properly pitched and ponding occurs.  We have had numerous leaks in various places throughout the building which are repaired and sometimes re-occur in the same spots.  I have no reason to expect the storms we’ve experience in the last two years will diminish. 
  • Domestic water systems.  Currently there is no backflow preventer provided on the domestic water service.  The insulation on the fittings needs to be examined to determine if hazardous materials have been used.
  • Plumbing fixtures:  All plumbing fixtures appear to be in “fair” operational condition, but they are original and do not comply with the ADA requirements for the handicapped.
  • Fire protection:  Currently the building is not provided with an automatic sprinkler system.
  • Elevator:  our elevator has had numerous problems with power breakdowns and the door not opening and closing properly.  Many staff members refuse to ride in it, sending the book trucks up in the elevator and taking the stairs.
  • Front doors:  The front doors have had their motor replaced in an attempt to make the mechanism work more smoothly.  It is old, slow and unpredictable and has been known to nip people in the leg when they close unexpectedly on patrons as they exit the building.

Other areas of Concern
  • Community Room: Bulging panels speak to the age of the room, along with a Control Room that has an aging sound system, no capability of recording or broadcasting through our local cable station.
  • Parts of the exterior stone façade have separated from the building and are being held together by wood supports.  Another section of the façade near levels has begun to separate in a similar fashion.
  • Levels is not ADA compliant.
  • The mezzanine is also not ADA compliant and built directly onto the book stacks below, leaving no room for adaptability and change.
  • Children’s Room.  The collection has outgrown its size, with many stacks too high for young children to reach.
  • The reference Area has, in effect, two spots for patrons to seek help, resulting in an inefficient use of staff and confusion for the patrons on where to go for help. There is also a great deal of space being taken up with microfilm cabinets, a near-obsolete technology.
  • The History Room has a growing collection and will soon run out of room. 
  • As many reference books are replaced on online resources, shelving can be reduced in the reference area, which would then beg for a redesign of the area.
  • The A/V department should not be on the ground floor.
  • The library needs a Young Adult room or area, with shelving, seating and computers.
An Ad-Hoc Committee is being formed to formulate a workable, acceptable plan for renovating this building.  Recently, the Board voted to stay within the existing footprint, so we will not be expanding our footprint.  But our 40 year old building still needs work!

If I've left anything out, please let me know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Libraries Matter -- and Make a Difference

There was an interesting article in the New York Times the other day.  It was a profile of a new Children's Center built for the Queens Central Library.  Called "Discover!" and built at a cost of $30 million, it is a two-story addition built next to the Central Library.  The reporter described it as "all transparency and nonchalance.  Its facade, pierced by large windows opening the interior to the street, and vice versa, glows as day turns to night, acting like a beacon in the neighborhood and redefining a humdrum block."

The article had some interesting things to say about libraries, too.  "Today libraries double as centers for the elderly and toddler playrooms.  They're safe after-school havens for teenagers of working parents, with rooms set aside that are stocked with computers and, at a few branches like the Rockaways, even with recording studios."

"Libraries have become modern town squares and gathering places; they offer millions of New Yorkers employments counseling, English-language classes and, crucially, Internet access."

"To imagine that libraries could remain as they were half a century ago would entail wishing away the Web and the demands of old people, immigrants, the unemployed, schoolchildren and parents who want constructive places to keep their young children occupied at a time when public resources and political good will are in increasignly short supply."

We are indeed lucky to not only have one library in Great Neck, but a branch system as well, with four locations to serve you.  We know that libraries matter.  They can make a difference in many people's lives.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dattner Architects: An Important Partner in the Library Project

We are proud to have the firm of Dattner Architects to design our new building.  Our Board has directed their professionals to incorporate best environmental practices into the project since its inception. That means a healthier, more energy efficient building, minimal site impact, and the opportunity to be a green and healthy neighbor to a clean and newly-dredged Udall's pond after decades of neglect. We owe the latter improvement to Nassau County’s dredging project that is scheduled to begin soon.

Dattner Architects have a long record of sustainable design projects, the latest of which was cited on The New York Times September 26, 2011 front page. The Times reported that Dattner is a design partner in a “green” Bronx housing complex which, "goes out of its way to be healthy."  In fact, for Dattner, incorporating green and healthy elements is not at all unusual.

When it comes to environmental respect, Dattner is also at the forefront. Our library addition will not be built on a wetland.  As clearly stated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Town of North Hempstead, the building project must stay behind a "line of non-jurisdiction" the DEC draws to ensure an environmentally sensitive area will not be disturbed by any building next to it.  This very issue was made clear to our architects from the start.  In response, Dattner designed the addition to go no further than the existing patio area to ensure our project stays as far from Udall’s pond as possible. 

As Dattner put together a cost estimate for this project, their firm listed some options for the Board to consider.   Some of these items that have been taken out of the project were removed for reasons our opponents often cite: cost considerations.  These will be considered by the Board as possible alternates if the budget permits.  But Dattner has assured the Library that bird friendly glass is part of the project. Both the Town Board and the Library Board recognize the importance of bird-friendly glass next to a bird sanctuary, which will attract even more birds once it is dredged.

 The Board has made clear that while the main library will be closed during construction, a temporary facility will serve the community during that time. Dattner has assured us that closing the main library will allow the project to be built most quickly, economically and safely.

Far from harming Udall's Pond, the renovation project and related site work will complement the County's dredging plan and insure the long term viability of the pond. As to the irresponsible claim by referendum opponents that the new addition might jeopardize the foundation of the existing building, this is not based on any facts according to Dattner.

      The Library Board considered the option of simply renovating the existing space without any expansion. Estimated to cost $13.5 million, this option would not have met some basic program improvements requested by the public and the Library.  We would have saved some money but not gotten what the community needs.  The Board feels that the option they approved in January, 2010 best represents a prudent balance between the community's wishes and resources, and will insure the long term future of the library.

Our opponents dispute the need for an expansion. They are entitled to their opinion. Over a decade worth of visioning studies, numerous architects plans, public hearings and surveys suggest otherwise.