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Director Plugs Mineola Library as More Than Just Books

Mineola Library Director Charles Sleefe gives presentation to village board.

While many Mineola residents are aware of the benefits and programs of the Mineola Memorial Library, there are still some who may not be taking advantage of the wide breath of services available on Marcellus Road.

“I think it’s under-utilized, I think it has a lot to offer and we’re not always aware of what it has to offer,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said, adding that he had asked Mineola Library Director Charles Sleefe to give a presentation about the benefits of the library before the Mineola Village Board during the October 10 meeting at village hall.

“We’re more popular than ever right now we’re very busy,” Sleefe said. “I think there’s (a lot) that we offer that people don’t realize and that’s what I want to highlight tonight; we’re more than books.”

The library has made an extensive push into digital, starting with their website and computerized card catalogues.

“We’re always going to have books,” Sleefe said. “I don’t want anybody to be afraid ‘oh, I don’t know how to use a computer, I don’t know how to use an iPad, I don’t know how to use a Nook,’ not that we don’t have both of those things... but you’ll always be able to come in and take out a book, it’s not going away anytime soon.”

The library converted its video collection of over 2,000 titles to DVD about 3 years ago, so “if you’re stuck on a weekend, you want to get a video we’re pretty much the only game in town as far as renting it out,” Sleefe said, noting the closure of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Tower Records in Carle Place.

The library has a new case for CDs - both music and audiobook, “most of which are unabridged,” Sleefe said.

Of the 54 libraries in Nassau County, Mineola houses the 34th-largest collection Sleefe estimates. The library is exponentially larger if one utilizes the intermunicipal-library lending service, which allows patrons to order a book from a library anywhere in Nassau County or even from Suffolk through LI link.

“A big chunk of our most popular area now is the teen area,” Sleefe said, moving the books to a room on the upper floor that once housed reference books, calling it the “Teen Zone” and displaying “random” photos taken over the summer of programs which took place at the library, such as “Book Buddies” a two-week program of older, middle school-aged students who come in to read to younger children, various children’s programs including animals, summer reading, a magic show, school visits and the monthly art galleries, which are booked through 2015.

The library also holds movie nights twice a week as well as concerts.

“We’d like to branch in years to come, maybe some music in the park a little if we get a bigger act, maybe the library can do a concert in the park,” Sleefe said.

There are several volunteer groups associated with the library, including a seniors group who meet on Monday afternoons and the “Friends of the Library,” who recently donated iPads and Nooks for use by patrons.

“We purchased 5 Nooks – the Friends paid for it – and they bought us some giftcards from Barnes & Noble, we downloaded the bestsellers onto it and we rent it out to you for a week; it’s free, not a paid thing,” Sleefe said. “But it’s a Nook for a week and you can look, there’s about 100 books on it that you can just read one, bring it back and people like it, they might go and buy their own and then they can use the library as I’ve said right along because we have this system called Overdrive which is a database through the library system that you can download e-books for free.”

Another little-known benefit is the Museum Pass program, essentially library family memberships where a library can join and receive passes to the museum it then loans to patrons.

“You can reserve it for a weekend or a mid-week, you can get the pass and just go walk in as a member for free,” Sleefe said, noting that Mineola has passes to the Intrepid, Guggenheim, New York Historical Society, LI Children’s Museum, Nassau County Museum of Art, and Old Westbury Gardens among others.

Sleefe said that the library has not been able to add new passes since many museums have changed to a voucher system for 20 free passes per year while others – such as the Children’s Museum – have become more expensive.

The library also has about 50 online databases on its website, including “Learning Express” which is geared toward those taking SAT, PSAT, LSAT and civil service exams as well as “Job & Career Accelerator”, “which has become a very important part of our library recently,” Sleefe said, noting that the online access allows users to save resumes and cover letters. “A lot of people come in looking for jobs.”

Mango” is another database used as  an online language learning resource similar to Rosetta Stone but simpler.

“It’s not a foreign service test, you’re not going to be fluent, but it’s something when you’re traveling on business, things like that,” Sleefe said.

Sleefe said that the library is trying to get a new website with an easier domain, or web address, but did not reveal any thoughts for fear they may be taken by others wishing to then “flip” the property in hopes of making a profit.

The library expanded its Saturday hours a year ago, staying open later on 42 of 52 Saturdays.

“It’s still too early to tell,” Sleefe said when asked if traffic had increased. “It’s about the same as a weekday. It wasn’t very slow but I think the word has to get out a little more.”

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