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After Sandy: Plainview’s Safe Haven

Residents without power flock to POB Library for warmth, companionship and a helping hand

When the staff of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library decided to help the community after Hurricane Sandy, they didn’t just mean giving people a place to charge their phones. Of course, many residents whose homes were without power flocked to the library for an opportunity to charge their electronic devices and access the Internet, but people also came to hold appointments, use the microwave in the staff kitchen, do their hair in the ladies room, and even plug in medical equipment.

According to Library Director Gretchen Browne, the staff made a decision to do everything within reason to help those affected by the hurricane, and patrons took them up on the offer in a big way: making the library a second home. The library has been a spiritual center of the community for a long time, but for the last few days, it’s become a community center in every sense of the term.

The library actually did this before in 2011, albeit on a smaller scale. “We did it after Hurricane Irene. We felt that there was a need for people to use the library because again, we were one of the only places that had power,” said Browne. “I think people realized last year that the library was the place to go with power.”

Ever since reopening post-hurricane on Thursday, Nov. 1, the library has been open extra hours to accommodate residents without electricity at home; on Saturday night, the lobbies were kept open until 8 p.m. instead of the usual 5:30 to give people a warm place to hang out. When the library opened two hours early on Sunday, 350 people were waiting outside the doors.

In addition to taking advantage of heat, light and Internet access, people have been utilizing the facilities in all kinds of ways. Several people brought nebulizers, a kind of medical breathing device, which they had not been allowed to plug in at the hospital for insurance reasons. Two children received a physical therapy session in a back office. One young lady, preparing for a party, even ironed her dress on one of the library’s tables.

Browne praised the custodial staff for going out of their way to accommodate people, and her entire staff for working extra hours. Of course, with such a large number of people in one place, not everyone can be happy, but according to Browne, residents have by and large been pleased to have these resources at their disposal.

“Of course we’ve had a couple of complaints here and there, but they’re minor compared to the praise that we’ve received,” said Browne.

Browne went on to say that almost everyone she spoke to had a positive attitude, wanting electricity back but being able to put the situation in perspective and realize that they were fortunate compared to those who had lost their belongings or their homes in the hurricane. In fact, a sense of camaraderie has developed among the library patrons; people are getting to know each other, sharing supplies, making informal tech support teams, and even playing mahjong together.

“They’re bringing their own surge protectors, they’re bringing their own power strips…they’re being really accommodating, allowing other people to plug in next to them,” said Browne.

In addition, the library isn’t the only place in town looking out for residents without power: Gold and Meyer’s Gourmet Deli, located across the street from the library, sent over two shopping bags full of free bagels for everyone to eat on Sunday.

During a difficult time, it’s always nice to see hardship bringing out generosity and kindness rather than anger and selfishness. It’s perhaps a credit to the residents of this community that they have adapted to the situation with such grace— but having a warm, friendly place in the neighborhood to hang out makes it a little easier.

News

When you walk into the Apple Store, you expect to be greeted with the latest in cutting edge technology. However, if you stroll into your local library, you might just be impressed by a similar level of tech there as well.

Already boasting accoutrements such as iPads and digital downloads, patrons of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library now have two options on how to check out materials such as books and movies; the trustworthy librarian, or a snappy new device called the SmartServe 400, an electronic kiosk that enables visitors to do it all themselves, according to Library Director Gretchen Browne.

When it comes to food, New York is known for three things; pizza, deli sandwiches and bagels. Some of the best bagels are right here on Long Island. Plainview to be exact.

“When I was in eighth grade, I took a job at the local bagel store next to the high school,” said Steve Cohen, owner of Town Bagel in Plainview. “I still have that same job today, 36 years later.”


Calendar

Owl Prowl

Saturday, Nov. 29

Holiday Tea

Monday, Dec. 1

Art in the Afternoon

Wednesday, Dec. 3



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