In the age of the internet and digital media, the library is a standout as one of the few institutions that one might think should go the way of the dodo but has actually thrived. And if the Patchogue-Medford Library is any example, that success is only getting bigger, literally.
Last week a bill was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow Brookhaven Town and the Patchogue-Medford Library to enter into a land lease agreement to build a new library branch on a town-owned piece of vacant property adjacent to the Medford Athletic Complex at 2151 Horseblock Road.
The new branch will share the existing parking lot and be located to the west of the complex.
The .61-acre parcel is owned by the Town of Brookhaven but since it was parkland the deal required state legislation for the town to enter into a lease with the library, according to the office of Assemblyman Joe DeStefano who represents the district.
The bill that was signed by the governor last Friday was co-sponsored by Assemblyman DeStefano and state Senator Monica Martinez.
The bill is one step on the way to making the new branch a reality.
On its website the Patchogue Medford Library said that the bill authorizes the creation of the lease but the lease has not yet been written or signed by either party. A press conference to announce the deal is set for next week.
The new annex is one that the residents in Medford have been clamoring for a long time, according to Patchogue-Medford Library Director Danielle Paisley. She said she found documentation that shows the district has been looking for Medford services since 1966.
Paisley, who has been library director for about two-and-a-half years has been an employee of the library for 22 years.
“The fact is our district is very large and the Medford community has always wanted something a little closer,” said Paisley. “Sometimes a library is about proximity.”
The reason the effort has failed all these years, according to Paisley, is because of funding.
“Building a building is expensive,” she said. “Unfortunately the money hasn’t been available.”
That is until now.
A conflux of events has finally led to the Medford community getting something they’ve wanted for more than 50 years, a library branch of their own.
The Medford Hamlet Foundation had been working on a plan to build some sort of community center in the area but the money they had raised wasn’t exactly enough to do what they wanted. Nor did they have the experience or size to manage the project.
“They came to the library and offered us the money,” said Paisley.
The library added that money to a reserve fund of its own that was earmarked for a new branch, if they could ever build one. The Town of Brookhaven came through with land available to lease to the library for cheap where it was looking to build. The lease agreement had not been drafted at the time of the publication of this article.
The library needs about $2.5M to build a planned 5,000-square-foot building on the lot. Between its own capital, the Medford Hamlet Foundation funds, and additional fundraising, Paisley said the library should cover all of the costs with no additional bond needed for the project.
The new building will be an annex to serve that part of the library district and allow for a wider reach of service.
Paisley stressed that there are many different reasons libraries are still in demand.
“Libraries are educational institutions,” she said. “While the format people read in is different today, libraries are busier than ever.”
Modern libraries are more than just book-lenders and offer a multitude of services to the community, including career services, special educational and fun programming, free WiFi, movie rentals and a place to borrow e-books for personal tablets.
According to the American Library Association, there are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S. On Long Island there are over 110 local libraries, including branches.
The news also comes as libraries are running a campaign nationwide to encourage card sign up. September is National Library Card Sign Up Month, a national campaign to emphasize the importance of library cards to a child’s education and to combat illiteracy.
The new Medford location will serve the community needs, providing a large meeting space that residents can use as their own. The library will also offer programming, WiFi, and a small collection of books in-house. Cardholders will be able to request books to be delivered from the main library or from the Suffolk County library cooperative.
Paisley said that the library will always have a selection of books but stressed that there are many ways for people to borrow content they want from the library.
“There are other ways to get literature into people’s hands,” Paisley said.
Top: Street view of the land of the new proposed Medford library (credit: Google).