Earlier this month, alongside local library directors, Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin announced the approval of more than $340,000 in grants to support several public libraries within the township. The allocation was made possible by funding through the federal CARES Act, which was secured by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer last year.
Each institution, including the Merrick Library, will receive a $14,982 grant to help pay for unbudgeted expenses incurred during the pandemic. Clavin said the funding will also allow library staffers to continue to provide programs and services to their communities.
“No one in our town was spared from the impacts of this pandemic and the financial toll it has taken,” Clavin said. “We are proud to be able to provide this funding to our neighborhood libraries so they can continue serving the residents of Hempstead Town.”
Most libraries have continued to offer a full complement of services throughout the pandemic with Covid-19 safety measures in place. These include high-grade Plexiglas shields for circulation and reference desks, personal protective equipment for staff, daily sanitizing procedures, UV-lighting to disinfect books and printed materials and reconfiguration of library spaces to maintain social distancing.
At the news conference, Councilman Christopher Carini, who represents the town’s 5th District, recalled fond memories of leading civic association meetings at the Seaford Public Library, further proving their importance. “I am proud to partner with Supervisor Clavin and my colleagues on the Town Board to provide federal CARES funds to help our local libraries,” he said.
According to Director Dan Chuzmir, the Merrick Library incurred about $14,000 in Covid-related expenses to purchase personal protective equipment, sneeze guards, partitions, cleaning supplies and even finance the library’s Zoom account, which staff and vendors use for online programming. Since the grant will be used for reimbursement of those supplies, Chuzmir said, the library can continue to provide services during the pandemic.
Adjusting to the new normal
When the building closed at the height of the pandemic last spring, Merrick’s librarians pivoted to Zoom to conduct programs online. At the time, Merrick was also the only library in Nassau delivering materials straight to patrons’ homes, Chuzmir said, and that continues today.
The building reopened for limited, in-person services last August with a number of precautions in place. Patrons were also able to enjoy on-site programming such as crafts and story time in the library’s outdoor garden, which delighted families that were experiencing cabin fever.
“We did everything we could to make it as great as possible, and it worked,” Chuzmir said.
As cases surged during the fall and winter, the library returned to a more limited schedule to keep staff and patrons safe. Despite this, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are thankful that we’re providing services, and everyone’s been great about following the guidelines,” Chuzmir said.
The beginning of a new chapter
While foot traffic was low, the library underwent a number of facility improvements, including installation of new floors and carpeting, the addition of a new reading area with comfortable seating and the creation of a new workspace area on the first floor. Additionally, a flex area was designated on the second floor for technology-based instruction.
Chuzmir hopes to welcome more readers to the library as the weather warms up, with increased seating, longer hours and more programming. “By the fall, our goal is to have indoor, on-site programming again if all goes well with vaccinations,” he added. “We will closely monitor what’s going on in the community . . . and provide what we feel is safe.”
The Merrick Library is at 2279 Merrick Ave. For more information, visit www.merricklibrary.org.