Written by Lucia Donofrio
For the past decade, Peter McDonnell has been giving back to the community he’s called home most of his life. The Carle Place native and father of two currently serves as president of both the Carle Place Public Library Funding District and the Carle Place Civic Association and is a dedicated volunteer at the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter.
A graduate of Carle Place High School, McDonnell attended the College of Insurance (now the School of Risk Management and Actuarial Science at St. John’s University), working in corporate accounting for 12 years. After getting married, McDonnell and his wife Laura moved to Coram but in 2001, they moved their family, which includes sons Patrick and Peter Jr., back to Carle Place and into McDonnell’s childhood home.
Around this same time, residents in districts without a library were told they would no longer be allowed to purchase individual library cards at neighboring libraries. As a result, a Carle Place Library Committee was formed and, in 2001, both the New York State Assembly and Senate granted the Committee the right to look into establishing a library district through which Carle Place residents would contract services from a neighboring library, such as Westbury.
McDonnell, who himself utilized the Westbury Memorial Public Library growing up, joined the committee and in December 2002, residents of the Carle Place School District approved a referendum establishing a special library district, giving them unlimited access to services, materials and programs offered at the Westbury Memorial Public Library.
At this time, residents also approved a library budget and elected a five-member board of trustees, which included McDonnell; he is currently serving his 10th year on the board, eight as president, and plans to seek re-election to a third, five-year term this September.
“When I first moved back to Carle Place, the committee was just being formed. Joining just seemed like the right thing for me to do,” said McDonnell, adding, “My parents were avid readers and they passed their love of books on to me. I came to the Westbury Library a lot growing up. I have many fond memories, especially of the Children’s Library.”
About six years ago, the Westbury Board of Trustees granted McDonnell the right to sit in on meetings as a non-voting member. In this capacity, McDonnell shares with the Westbury Board any concerns or special requests residents of Carle Place may have and vice versa.
“I can go back to my board and the community and let them know what Westbury is doing while at the same time communicating to the Westbury Board what Carle Place residents like and don’t like as well as what programs and materials they would like offered,” said McDonnell.
According to McDonnell, the relationship between the Carle Place Library District and its residents and the Westbury Library has been a good one. “Westbury opened its doors to us and has been more than accommodating,” he said. “Over the years, the Board of Trustees, along with Director Cathleen Towey, has been very receptive to us and our suggestions.”
McDonnell said he would like to see more residents utilize the Library and all it has to offer. As of the 2010 census, there were approximately 9,500 people living in Carle Place; of that number, said McDonnell, only about 2,500 have library cards.
“Those residents who use the library seem extremely satisfied, but there are still too many who don’t,” McDonnell said. “The goal is to let them know that the Library is available to them and how much it has to offer.”
According to McDonnell, the Westbury Library offers excellent media and book collections, access to so many different and valuable resources and programs that will appeal to residents of all ages.
When he’s not serving on the library board, McDonnell can be found home-schooling his sons and dedicating time to the Garden City Community Church. Additionally, this May will mark his fourth year as president of the Carle Place Civic Association and his 10th as a volunteer dog handler and adoption advisor at the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter.
(Please note: The Carle Place Public Library Funding District holds its own annual budget and trustee election; residents of Carle Place cannot take part in the annual Westbury Library Budget and Trustee elections held in April and Westbury residents cannot take part in the September Carle Place Library Budget or Trustee elections.)