More than just a fresh coat of paint on its list of recent renovations, Malverne Public Library has unveiled an all-new teen zone for young adult readers. Mayor Keith Corbett and State Councilor Judy Griffin visited the library on June 29 to monitor progress.
As the centerpiece of the renovation, the Teen Zone is equipped with new technology, including a Nintendo Switch game system and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The area has also been furnished with new tables, chairs and plush rocking chairs.
“Furniture can be expensive in the library world,” says library director Carol Lagos. “I got some of the items through Wayfair because they’re cheaper. But I really looked around for furniture because I wanted things that felt just right in the space, if the budget allowed.”
New teenage librarian Jillian McHugh oversees the new projects for young adults. “We were setting up the Nintendo Switch yesterday and we had a teen test (the system) in front of us,” said McHugh. “That was a lot of fun, so we’re going to work on that. Our summer reading is going quite well. We have a number of teenagers signing up. And we are working on the programming to hopefully bring in more.”
McHugh added that she hoped to increase teen engagement. “We also accept teenage volunteers,” she said. “They can just come in, fill out an application or search online. Their help is always welcome.”
In addition to the construction of the Teen Zone, the library had a mural repainted and the children’s area also received new furniture. Perhaps most strikingly, large parts of the building have been re-clad in a vibrant blue. Outside, a lawn along the side of the building has been refurbished and fenced in to allow for future activities.
The library staff also launched a ‘small art gallery’. Developed by librarians Michele Esselborn and Mari-Leigh Carrol, the small art lending library allows customers to trade small works of art from a cabinet in the library entrance. Inspired by a similar program at libraries across Washington state, Esselborn and Carrol said they hoped the idea would spread across Long Island.
Local children submitted the first set of artworks, while Esselborn developed the theme further. “We decided to put a Picasso quote on the back of the case: ‘Every child is an artist,'” she said. “But he continued, ‘The problem is how you can stay an artist once he grows up.'”
Preparing for the renovation was not easy and required the combined efforts of the entire staff, Lagos said. “During the Covid shutdown, we’ve all moved about 10,000 books from where the teen area is to the other side of the library, and we’ve moved the books from the other side of the library down,” she explained. “It was like a group project.”
Lagos said state senator Todd Kaminsky and Griffin facilitated the new development. “Senator Kaminsky and Councilman Griffin offered us a $10,000 grant,” she said. “And so we all got new furniture for the teenage bedroom. We mainly have new furniture in the nursery and new carpeting all over this side, just to make it more workable.”
“Libraries are still so important,” Griffin added. “They really are the center of a community.”
She spoke to a mother and her three children who were visiting. “They live in the area, and the mother told me taking her kids to the library helped them go to school since it’s across the street,” Griffin said. “When the kids went to school, they asked, ‘Can we go back to the library?’ They are a great example of the role that the library can play in people’s lives.”