The smell of popcorn and old books mixed with children’s laughter and soft rock music last Sunday at the Baldwin Public Library, which celebrated National Library Week. Despite the rain, the parking lot was full, and a crowd of families enjoyed the day’s events.
The first National Library Week was observed in 1958, with the theme “Wake Up and Read!” and thereafter the American Library Association made it an annual event. The Baldwin celebration was the first big gathering since the library made masks optional last month.
Patrons young and old zig-zagged through the free book section, examining eye-catching volumes to determine whether they were worthy of being added to the bags the library provided. Margaret DeMaria, a Baldwin resident for 21 years, was among the browsers, searching for the perfect murder mystery, she explained, for an upcoming Alaska cruise. Filling a bag, she worried about the weight, she said, especially because she would be allowed two suitcases on her trip.
DeMaria, who reads an estimated four books a week, is a familiar face at the library. “Everyone here is pleasant – I know these girls” who work there, she said with a smile. She enjoys more than murders, she added, saying she could read nearly anything: “I’ll be here till I fill my bag up.”
Also searching the shelves was Michael Herman, whose wife, Mary, is a former children’s librarian. Her work, and his frequent visits, have made them fixtures at the library. “We have a long-term connection,” Herman said. Having lived in Baldwin since 1979, he has clearly seen how important the library is as a community hub. “It’s a community resource,” he said, “especially here in Baldwin. It’s the center of town, because we do not have a normal center. ”
Library Director Elizabeth Olesh said the event – which was combined with a canned-food drive for Long Island Cares – was meant to give back to community members who have helped the library. “We wanted to have things for the whole family, for whatever age,” she said. “You can be an adult and get a balloon, or get henna done,” she added, showing off a reddish-brown design on her hand.
Another goal, of course, was simply to bring people back to the library. Noting its many free resources, such as the streaming and e-book services Kanopy, Hoopla and Libby, Olesh said that residents should see what the facility has to offer. What makes the library so special is the diversity of the activities it has on offer. “It’s one of the few places you can go by yourself, or with your family, your kids, and nobody is asking you to buy anything…,” Olesh said. “You can just sit and enjoy, meet up with your neighbors, take a class, get things for free, read the newspaper. ”
The library is not only an educational facility, but also a community hangout for many. “Especially in a place like Nassau County, we do not have a lot of community centers,” Olesh said, “so the library serves as one. We’re doing things to get people back and sign up or refresh their library cards. ”
Helping the library continue improving is the organization Friends of the Library, which work in conjunction with the library board. Friends Treasurer Tula Hawkins-Lacy said that the group also helps the library with community outreach and fundraising. “It’s a beautiful library – it’s huge,” Lacy said. “We strongly believe that a strong library is a smarter community, [and] we’re here to make sure. ”
The organization’s goals include adding new technology to the library, “so that the children in Baldwin can compete with some of the other wealthier communities,” Lacy said. “We have a lot of talent in Baldwin, and we’re trying to connect the public to the library. ”
County Legislator Debra Mulé came to the event to donate canned goods and peruse the free books. “Had the best time today at the Baldwin Public Library’s National Library Week event,” Mulé posted on Facebook. “The Baldwin Library is fully open again, and there are amazing resources and programs for both adults and kids. Stop in, pick up a library card, and enjoy. ”