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Library Steers A Challenging Course

Results of bids from property developers for 11.3 acres of land occupied by Gallow and Karopcyc school buildings that will be given to Island Trees School District Board members by the end of this month could determine how the Island Trees Public Library benefits in the coming months and years.  


Capping news of a potential new library that could be built if developers agree to a school district stipulation to build a new library and administrative offices on the acreage, Island Trees Public Library also welcomed “home” Michelle

Vaccarelli as its new library director. She was previously head of the children’s library from 2001-04.


Island Trees Public Library President John Mikulin told Levittown Tribune the library board was taking a wait-and-see approach to any new developments concerning sale of the land. “We continue to expand our services to the community

where we can in light of the tax cap and challenging economies of the past,” he said. The library has recently added Wifi to its mix, for example, and is attempting to expand its programs by hiring a new director. “We are always looking to grow and develop a better experience for our patrons.”


Armed with a Masters of Library Science degree attained from Queens College in 2001, new library director, Vaccarelli, a scant month-and-a-half after taking the reins and agreed that more space and programs would help the library build upon its current successes in children’s and teens’ programs, and it senior programs, to assist in outreach. 


“More spacing would mean more opportunities for the library,” Vaccarelli said of any potential new library. There could be a media room, more rooms for expanded programs, more collections available to patrons and more browsing areas for example, she continued.


She concedes the present room at the library could not be sectioned to provide for more rooms for programs, because it holds only 70 people as is.


Can Libraries Sustain?


Vaccarelli is clearly focused in the present on charting a course for the future of the library, whether developers come through or not. While public libraries can be seen as conservatories of books, repositories of collections, the digital age is in full bloom and tomorrow’s library users are in fact today’s young digital users—and consumers. 


Can the traditional library sustain its relevance in a digitized environment?


She studies the question. “We do stay relevant,” she then answered. “Libraries today feature databases” that even Google cannot match, and they are available at patrons’ fingertips with a simple library card, she said. “Google is a search engine that will take you to places where information may have no integrity,” she said. “Look at Wikipedia; people are putting information in there that can’t be verified.” 


She said library databases are “well-researched, legitimate, secure and well-documented sites” that contain solid reference material and sourcing you won’t find on a search engine to help write that paper, research that topic. As such, she admitted that the library no longer needs to purchase the references materials it once did.


Indeed, reference librarians now help patrons to access the databases and search them for accurate information and documentation. 


Vaccarelli looks to pick up on grant writing because many digital vendors offer digital services and products such as e-readers to libraries through grants.  Looking to get e-readers and tablets into the library, such as iPads and Kindle readers, she said “I want to write grants that can help us develop classes that will teach the latest in tablet technology.”


She said the classes would also help those new to the technology from a recent home purchase, too.


There are currently eight computers for general use to patrons for use in research, email purposes and to write articles, however.


In addition, there are computer classes in beginner and intermediate, as well as Excel spreadsheets, which are part of the adult program. 


The library’s website, which has been short on substance and design, is now filling up with program listings for children’s story time while offering homework help and a live librarian for questions.  


Good Teen Program


She was pleased once arriving back as new library director to see that the teen/young adult collection had grown. “It has a terrific collection now,” she said. There are several programs for teens and young adults as well, including a Teen

Advisory Group, a teen book discussion group called Yack ‘n’ Snack, a video game tournament with First- and Second-Place winners, a babysitting workshop and a first-aid class. 


“We will look into getting night movies for teens after the library closes at night,” she said. In this fashion, teens can come around on a Friday night with snacks, watch a movie and then discuss it.


The library’s senior program is another well-attended and received program within the community. “We feature an eight-week watercolor class for beginners-to-intermediate that is well attended,” she said.


Sonny (Sonia) Taub, a member of the newly formed Friends of Island Trees Public Library, told this newspaper she has been taking watercolor courses for 11 years. “I’ve had two 1-women shows at the library” from what she’s learned, she said.


There are also knitting and crocheting classes; Tai-chi classes; classes for strength, balance and flexibility developed by the arthritis foundation and held by Barbara Gilmartin; crafts programs and a music program. 


The children’s program is well-received for its attention to young children’s needs. Besides a Storytime hour for children Sharon Levy, parent of two-year-old Danny and five-year-old Emma, told Levittown Tribune that her children “absolutely adore coming to the library, because they can play with toys, sing along with other children, blow and pop bubbles and they can read books.” Little Danny was carousing the bookshelf as she spoke.


She said that having visited a bigger library in the community, she liked the children’s book shelf at the Island Trees Library because it displayed more books along the top so that Emma, her daughter, could see the selections available. 


Jennifer Mabrouk, mother of three, said she has been bringing her children for four years. “They have learned so much here at the library,” she said. “It’s the interaction the children have with others when singing, coloring or book reading” that is so important for their development.


Nor is she concerned about the digital age her children will soon experience that could cloud their views about the library. “I read to the children at home, and they have computers too,” she said. Books plus computers equals the “best of both worlds,” she concluded.


New Director


While studying for her Master’s degree, Vaccarelli worked nights for two years as a library trainee at the Sea Cliff Library, assisting the director of the small library in research, setting up projects, working the circulation desk and learning the trade. She was fortunate to get the children’s position at Island Trees right after graduating. 


“I had options after getting my degree, including working in media relations for school districts,” she said.


She later left to head up the children’s program at the Wantagh Public Library, where she wore “many hats.” While there her interest in pursuing a library directorship blossomed because she was involved in collection development and preparing books appropriate for community needs – among many activities.


Meanwhile, Board President Mikulin concluded that, with news that the school may be selling the land in the hope of getting a developer to build a new administrative building and new library, “It will be the residents in the district who will vote to ultimately decide the future of the library.”