Written by Chris Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00
Modern libraries can no longer be thought of as cavernous monuments to dusty old books — and nowhere is that more evident than at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.
Library director Gretchen Browne recently sat down with the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald to discuss a few of the more significant changes taking place under her watch; the biggest news, she said, was regarding funding for the library’s recently-completed renovation project.
The library recently finished work on an extensive $200,000 renovation project, a month-long undertaking that saw the library’s old media department re-purposed to make room for additional media space, quiet study and meeting rooms, and a bigger community services department.
To help offset the cost involved, the library participated in the New York State Public Library Construction Grant Air Program. This program consists of a $14 million multi-year fund. If a project meets the criteria, Browne said, they are awarded funds based on a certain formula, and in the Plainview Library’s case, that criteria was met to the approximate tune of a cool $100,000.
“We put in our $200,000 renovation project, and we received half of that in grant money,” she said. “We just received our first check last week, and that will, of course, defray the costs of the renovations. They give you 90 percent of the award up front, and once you have completed the final paperwork, they give you the final 10 percent.”
What this grant translates to, in terms of its impact upon taxpayers, is that the Library has more money to put towards the goal of keeping their operating budget down year-to-year, which is always high on their priority list, Browne said.
“Last year we put the $200,000 into our budget, and the taxpayers voted and approved it. This year, when we went to the taxpayers with out budget, we only raised it 1.5 percent,” she said. “So, we’re able to take our grant money, put it back into the budget, and that keeps our other costs down...so, we don’t need to go to the taxpayers for more and more money.”
Next up, the library has the “Crayola Kiosk,” which Browne said was purchased for their use by the Friends of the Library, a group dedicated to assisting the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library through funding and other means of support. The kiosk, situated in the children’s room, is a plastic model of a giant Crayola crayon with four iPads attached around it. The iPads are pre-loaded with a vast array of educational games and are mounted in such a way that they can be physically rotated to either a horizontal or vertical viewpoint, depending on the game that’s being played at the time.
Browne noted that the kiosk, which was introduced to the Library several weeks ago, has been a huge hit with the kids.
“They’ve been coming in by the droves this summer to try this out, and they love it,” she said. “As time goes by we’ll be adding more and more games to the iPads, and so far we’re really pleased.”
Browne talked about some major changes on the horizon for patrons when they check out books, movies or any of the other materials that the library offers: The advent of a brand-new self-checkout system, the SmartServe 400 kiosks, which are expected to be installed soon.
“These are new, technologically-advanced devices for checking out your library materials. Our collection is being entirely tagged with electronic sensors that will interface with this system,” she said. “There’s a pad where you can put your stack of materials — books, DVDs, and so on — and the system will read your library card bar code, and then electronic ID tags on your materials, and patrons will be able to check out entirely on their own. It will enable people to get service more quickly, and anonymously if they so choose.”
But these devices will not cost librarians their jobs. Browne said that the self-checkout system will enable employees to concentrate on other needed areas, including helping people make the adjustment to the new check-out method.
And finally, Browne spoke about the Library’s partnership with The Compass Project, which is an organization that helps teens and young adults with learning disabilities plan for and make a successful transition from high school, college or unemployment to the workplace and independent adulthood. Recently, Browne said, they have been helping to install the electronic tags in the library’s materials that will interface with the new self-checkout system.
“These are teenagers who are developmentally disabled and need to be out in the real world, learning real skills with real people in real jobs,” she said. “They come with a job coach, and we’ve had them volunteer here before...they came in and helped us clear out books after we had a flood, and they work very quietly and cooperatively with their coach. They have challenges that they have to face in their own lives, but they do a great job for the library.”