The New York State Education Department in October awarded $34 million to 233 public libraries and systems across the state, including the Bayville Free Library, the Gold Coast Pubic Library and the Locust Valley Library. The funds are meant to help libraries construct new buildings, create additions, update electrical wiring and computer technology, improve broadband infrastructure, meet energy-efficiency standards and renovate facilities to provide full accessibility to library users with disabilities, as well as create meeting spaces to accommodate community needs.
“State Construction Aid allows public libraries the opportunity to meet the changing demands of the modern world. Nassau’s residents still use the library to browse and borrow books, but they also use libraries as remote workspaces and for the experience of learning together with others at events and programs,” Nassau Library System Assistant Director Nicole Scherer said. “The public library building is an essential community asset. Construction Aid is critical for ensuring public libraries can continue to keep their buildings responsive to community needs.”
A press release from the State Education Department stated that project activities eligible for awards include financing broadband infrastructure, construction of new library buildings, construction of additions to existing buildings, and the renovation or rehabilitation of existing space. The projects can include roof replacement; the purchase and installation of alternative energy sources, HVAC systems, windows, doors and lighting systems; electrical upgrades; and construction of new or replacement walkways, parking lots, standby generators, and electric vehicle charging stations. In addition, new furniture, shelving, and equipment, including computer equipment, can be purchased for new or newly renovated spaces.
“Priority is also given to renovations designed to provide accessibility for patrons with disabilities and projects to extend library services to people residing in geographically isolated and economically disadvantaged and distressed communities,” the press release stated.
The Bayville Free Library received $279,282. The money will fund a new meeting room and the addition of two Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant bathrooms.
“We are going to be renovating and expanding,” said Bayville Free Library Director Ashley Birbal. “Currently, we do not have a meeting room. Any programs and meetings are held in the middle of the library.”
The Bayville Free Library shares its horse-shoe shaped complex with Bayville Village Hall and the Bayville Historical Museum.
“There were the Boy Scout Room, the Girl Scout Room and the Water Department,” Birbal said. “What we’re doing is relocating the water department further down in the wing and turning that into the meeting space. Then we are renovating the Boy Scout Room and the Girl Scout Room to become one scout room in the middle.”
Aside from the projects covered by state funding, the Bayville Free Library will also be renovating the Children’s Room and the Adult Services Room.
The Gold Coast Public Library in Glen Head received $200,000. The Gold Coast Public Library is in contract to purchase 2.62 acres of land for the purpose of constructing a new library facility.
“We’re very excited about it,” Gold Coast Public Library Director Michael Morea said. “Our community passed a referendum for a new building back in 2020 and we were able to get a grant to cover part of the purchase of the land… We opened in 2005. We are the newest library in Nassau County by a long shot. And right now we’re in a small building in the train parking lot. We don’t have any of our own parking. We rent down the block for program space. Our new building will allow us to have everything under one roof, with its own parking and outdoor spaces and it’s going to be really exciting for the community.”
At this point, Morea said, the Gold Coast Public Library is looking at an early 2024 opening for the new building.
“The construction grant program is just an amazing thing for us because it helps us to offset the project from the local tax base and allow us to help people bring their tax rates down,” Morea explained. “We were able to apply for $400,000, we got half of it back. So it’s $200,000 for the purchase of the land. It’s really helpful to people to help us offer the best library service for the community.”
The Locust Valley Library received $18,805, which will go towards installing acoustic panels to improve sound quality and installing ventilation units to improve air quality.
“It’s been done,” Locust Valley Library Director Jenny Bloom said. “[The acoustic panels] will be used for our community room. The acoustic panels that are on the ceilings are helping for better sound quality for our programs in there.”
The community room hosts a variety of programs like fitness classes, seminars, community meetings and concerts.
“A library is a point of pride for any community as the embodiment of its belief in the power of learning and connecting with each other,” Scherer said. “This is especially true in Nassau County, where people deeply value opportunities for personal growth. Our public libraries serve in that capacity for people of all ages and all interests whenever they are ready for it and we are rewarded with passionate patrons in return.”