09/19/13 2:44pm
09/19/2013 2:44 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead High School library has been gutted and is currently under construction. Those renovations are expected to be completed by the end of December.

Riverhead School District officials say they have plans in place — or are hammering them out — to help ease transitional periods during construction this school year.

At the high school, three rooms are currently under construction: the auditorium, the library and the large group instruction room, known as the LGI room.

Superintendent Nancy Carney said the auditorium and LGI room are expected to be completed this fall.

The library should be finished by the end of December, she said.

“The whole space is going to be renovated and turned into a state-of-the-art media center,” Ms. Carney said. “There will be computer spaces and study nooks for kids.”

Ms. Carney said the district is meeting with Riverhead Free Library officials to collaborate student services during the library’s construction. Teachers are also gathering library materials and carting them into their classrooms, and students are using computer labs for research services, she said.

Roger Smith of BBS Architects in Patchogue, the company that designed the district-wide, $78.3 million construction bond project, said during a Sept. 10 school board meeting that construction at the Aquebogue, Riley Avenue and Phillips Avenue elementary schools is “substantially completed” and punch lists are expected to close out within the new few months. BBS is also working on a capital improvement proposal for the Shoreham-Wading River School District.

Riverhead Middle School construction plans have been submitted to the state education department, Mr. Smith said, adding that plans for Pulaski Street and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools will be sent to the state for review within a few weeks.

With the infrastructure improvements, the district is planning to change the way it feeds students.

The high school kitchen used to prepare all meals and ship them to each school. Now every building will be able to prepare fresh meals on-site. The Aquebogue Elementary School’s kitchen was the first to be completed and staffers there are currently preparing meals.

Ms. Carney said the district’s wellness committee will hold its first meeting Wednesday to come up with a new food service plan, including menus and partnerships with local farms. The committee is made up of school officials and Riverhead school board members.

As for the lunch staff, Ms. Carney said the district didn’t need to hire more employees because it was able to relocate some from the high school to other buildings.

In addition to the renovation of existing spaces at Riverhead High School, the Star Academy is moving into the main building. This alternative program, which has been housed in the high school’s portable classrooms, provides an atmosphere that promotes academic success while addressing more individual needs and learning styles. Ms. Carney said the district’s goal was to stop using the portables and instead move students into the main building to better integrate them into the regular academic program, including electives and extra-curricular activities.

In addition to the major renovations, the school board recently approved a $1.7 million repair-reserve fund project for various upgrades at the high school, including replacement of lighting and crumbling concrete in the back plaza courtyard, repair of the south and student parking lots and replacement of a damaged ceiling and lighting in the cafeteria, school officials have said.

Ms. Carney said she believes the district has been very organized with construction planning and is “very pleased with the progress.”

“The kids and staff are so excited about the new buildings,” she said. “It’s a nice feeling to be in an environment that’s so conducive to learning.”


08/17/13 8:00am
08/17/2013 8:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library’s new director Joy Rankin says she doesn’t think of the library as brick and mortar.

The Riverhead Free Library’s new director has learned from personal experience how a public library can help patrons get through a difficult time.

Joy Rankin, 51, who started last Tuesday in her new role, said in an interview this week that her public library in Atlanta, Ga., was there for her when her husband, a 37-year-old art teacher, became terminally ill.

When they met, he had three children and she had a son. After the couple married, they had another child about a year later. When their son turned 10 months old, Ms. Rankin’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and died nine months later.

Ms. Rankin described that experience as a whirlwind, but said her public library welcomed her and her children and offered an understanding environment, which helped the healing process for her family.

Ms. Rankin said she plans to go beyond Riverhead library’s walls and out into the community to let residents know about the services that are available to help with any of life’s problems, like losing a house or having trouble finding work.

The Nassau County native graduated from SUNY/New Paltz and the Palmer School of Library and Information Science and has worked as a librarian in the children’s department at the South Huntington Library and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. While serving as an adjunct professor at SUNY/New Paltz, Ms. Rankin said she started its first black and Latino children’s literature class, because she believes it’s important to teach educators how to bring language into the classroom through literature.

In 2002, Ms. Rankin worked as media coordinator for the Atlanta Public Schools, and was the supervisor for all media centers in school libraries.

She has also worked as a fashion and beauty writer for Essence magazine. Most recently, she was the director of the Roosevelt Public Library in Hempstead.

“With all of the experience I have, I feel there’s not an audience I can’t touch or be connected to,” she said.

We sat down with Ms. Rankin at the library to discuss her new role. Here are some excerpts.

Q: Why do you believe libraries are important?

A: I recently heard a story on the radio about the roles of libraries after Hurricane Sandy and in the midst of the storm. They acted as community hubs. The community came to think of the library very differently because in that emergency the library really rose up to this role it hadn’t expected to have in the past. It also empowered libraries and support staff. It really took on new meaning, a refined meaning. [Libraries] made us a lot stronger. Another library audience was added that wasn’t there before. And while [this new audience was] there, it took note of so many other services and access available.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge facing libraries?

A: Libraries are a lifestyle. If I can’t find some portions of my lifestyle at the library, why would I come here? People say, ‘I’m getting it on my tablet and I can read anything I want to at home.’ The two worlds are now coming to the table. There’s going to be an opportunity to use libraries in their first intended roles and that’s how libraries impact democracy in communities. If this becomes the last institution standing that’s unbiased and allows people to bring their concerns and discuss them in a fair and respectful manner, so everybody can hear all sides of a point, libraries, to me, will continue to create the space where people can bring all kinds of issues and challenges, and find solutions.

Q: What drew you to Riverhead?

A: Riverhead excites everybody. Riverhead, for me, is a cumulation of all these various work I’ve done and the various paths that have lead me here. I’m not just thinking of the library as brick and mortar. There’s so much more outside— the array of people in Riverhead. I’m so excited to meet and engage with and be connected to them because there are some voices that haven’t been heard, and then there are voices that we’ve gotten so comfortable with that they are the only voices you get to hear. I hope that I’m able to quickly show the community that I walk with fairness in my blood.

Q: What are your goals as the library’s newest director?

A: When I was a media coordinator in Atlanta, my conversations would be at the level of the state as a lobbyist with the district superintendents to make sure the library program in their schools was impacting the various school reforms. The beauty of public libraries is that you can have a certain level of freedom. I can be more cutting edge in public libraries. I can operate more non-traditionally in public libraries. I felt kids connect more with edginess. That’s my style. The conversation could also be about, what are we sharing in terms of resources? If a school can’t purchase a particular database, then that’s something the library could look into having. I’m looking forward to partnering with the schools and developing new programs for children.

Q: How has the transition been as you settle into your new role?

A: The staff has embraced me in a way that I have never experienced. Even in the process of being interviewed — and I said it to the staff when I met them last week — it was like I went on a date. I first thought, ‘I’m just going to have fun on this date. If I never see this guy again, I had a great meal and had a good time.’ At the end of the evening, I thought, ‘I wonder if we’re going on another date. This was nice.’ So, I went on like three dates and now I’m married. It was really a great process for me. I just felt pulled in and I wanted to be a part of something I felt was becoming big. And now I’m on the edge of it. I’ve been fortunate that way, that I seem to enter into something just in time.


07/21/13 12:00pm
07/21/2013 12:00 PM

CLAIRE LEADEN PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library has a self-checkout machine for those wanting to grab a book and go.


In recent years, libraries have become much more than just places to borrow books. Patrons have also become accustomed to checking out music and movies and attending classes at their local library.

Still, there are a few things you might not even know your library offers. For example, all Suffolk County libraries accept cards from any library in the county, so feel free to visit the other book lenders if you’re interested. Keep in mind, though, that each library may have its own restrictions about lending items to non-residents.

Here are some unique possibilities available to you at libraries across the North Fork. Some of these features are available in multiple locations, so call ahead to your own local library to see if they offer a similar program or service.

Riverhead Free Library, 727-3228

There is a whole section of the Riverhead library’s website dedicated just to the services it offers. In the library building itself there is a book and magazine magnifier for the sight-impaired, a self-checkout machine for checking materials out quickly, and multiple rooms that can be reserved for no charge by any non-profit organization or group.

Riverhead also offers museum passes at their reference desk and has volunteers that deliver materials to those who need it.

North Shore Public Library, Wading River, 929-4488

North Shore Public Library offers tons of fun for kids — there are Nooks for checkout, iPads for library use and even video games that kids can borrow for PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox.

For older audiences, the library offers discounted subscriptions to the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic, with transportation available to and from the library. Museum passes are also available for borrowing.

Floyd Memorial Library, Greenport, 477-0660

If you want to exercise your mind, Floyd Memorial allows patrons to take out jigsaw puzzles. It also has a slide projector for rental and a large graphic novel collection in its book section.

Recently, the library established a digital magazine collection so cardholders can read a variety of magazines for free right on their computers. Also, for Orient residents who don’t want to travel to Greenport to check out books, the reference librarian sets up a “pop up” library at the Orient Country Store twice a month with a selection of books to choose from.

Southold Free Library, 765-2077

Patrons of Southold Free Library can use their library cards to borrow Kindles, iPads and Nooks and enjoy reading in a more modern way. Another option that’s uncommon among libraries is that Southold offers fishing poles to take out.

“It’s an idea I came up with last summer,” library director Caroline MacArthur said. “We live in a summer community so it’s perfect for out here.”

The tablets and fishing poles, however, are available only to Southold library cardholders.

The library’s computers are loaded with the Ancestry Plus program, which allows patrons to look up their family history and trace their genealogy for free.

Patrons can also purchase tickets to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead at a discounted $14. And for anyone in Southold or Peconic who is unable to make it to the library in person, there are volunteers who will deliver books to them.

Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library, 734-6360

The Cutchogue library also has a homebound program, but rather than deliver books in person it does so by mail to anyone who cannot visit the library. Through “live-brary,” the cooperative website of all Suffolk County libraries, Cutchogue also offers the Mango language-learning program. There is a wide variety of choices on the website, but if you’d rather not learn online, Cutchogue also holds an Italian conversation class every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. during July.

There is also a new service on the library’s website called Indieflix, which allows patrons to stream films from independent festivals. There are also iPads available for use within the library.

Mattituck-Laurel Library, 298-4134

The Mattituck library is a designated Family Place Library, offering many services for both children and adults. When school starts again, children going into preschool and kindergarten can borrow backpacks filled with DVDs, books and other materials to help them prepare for the new school experience. Educational toys are also available for children to check out and there are laptops and iPads that can be used in the library’s children’s room. New parents can pick up an Infant Kit filled with materials and information for parents of newborns.

Adult services include a library card smartphone app, which has the patron’s library barcode on it so there is no need to have a library card anymore. The library also offers free passes to nine different museums, including many in New York City.

Patrons can gain access to the program Freegal, which downloads songs, for no charge, and Zinio, which provides free online subscriptions to magazines.

Patrons at each of these libraries can manage their library account online. After opening an account you can reserve and renew books, pay fines and view the history of books checked out.

Visit live-brary.com for access to all the information and services from libraries in Suffolk County, and check out each library’s own website for newsletters featuring the many programs for children, teens and adults that are hosted all summer long.


06/28/13 4:31pm
06/28/2013 4:31 PM
Segal retirement in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Corky Segal received this purple cowgirl hat as a retirement gift Friday. Here she poses with her husband, Mickey Segal, who has worn his cowboy hat for many years but has never been on a horse in his life. They both turned 85 on Thursday.

Corinne (Corky) Segal has sat at the guest reception desk at Riverhead Free Library for 27 years, serving as a circulation clerk.

Her work that began in the 1980s came to a close Friday. But first, she was recognized at a retirement party in her honor.

She was mostly roasted during the event by circulation director Liz Stokes, who told stories of Ms. Segal’s fast driving, complete with anecdotes of getting out of speeding tickets, in one case by telling a police officer “I changed your diapers.”

After once receiving a ticket, she later told a judge, “Your mother and I were in the delivery room together.”

The ticket was promptly dismissed.

As a gift, Ms. Stokes gave her a poster size speed limit sign that reads: “Speed Limit 35 mph” and then “Except for Segal Family.”

Ms. Segal summed up her many years at the library as so: ”It’s a second family. They are all so wonderful. They are always there for me.”

“Corky taught us to give with your heart,” Ms. Stokes said.

“She is Riverhead Free Library.”


06/26/13 8:00am
06/26/2013 8:00 AM

Most children count down the days until school gets out for summer, but for those who receive their only meal of the day during school hours, the thought of three months off does not hold the same feeling of excitement.

Over 90,000 children on Long Island receive free or reduced-cost school lunches, but when summer arrives their main source of nourishment is taken away. Luckily, Island Harvest, the biggest hunger relief organization on Long Island, has a summer food service program for children in this exact position. And, for the second year in a row, Riverhead Free Library is a feeding site for local youth in need.

“Island Harvest approached us last year about becoming an open feeding site,” said Laurie Harrison, head of children’s services at the library. “They wanted us to provide, along with the location, an educational and literary aspect, so that’s why I agreed.”

In addition to the food, the library also encourages the children to take part in the summer reading program and collects book donations so children can leave with at least one book each.

“I feel that it’s not just a meal project, because it was very evident last year that this was most of the children and their caretakers’ first time at the library,” acting Library Director Pamm Trojanowski said. “It’s a chance to feed not only the body, but the mind as well.

“When they come they find out that they can get a library card, which opens a whole other world of opportunity for them. It’s just amazing for us on staff to watch.”

Island Harvest chooses communities for the summer food service program by looking at the number of children who qualify for discounted or free school lunches in the area. Just over 50 percent of students in the Riverhead school district qualify. Ms. Harrison also said the Riverhead demographics fit the census requirements to take part of the program.

This summer, the program starts on July 8 and will run for five weeks. Children under the age of 18 can go to the library Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to enjoy a free, nutritious lunch.

The visitors don’t have to meet any criteria to receive the meal, but children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an adult. The Riverhead Library is different from most of the other summer feeding sites in Suffolk County because it is an open site, meaning that community members do not need to enroll to receive a meal. Anyone can walk in during the open time slot.

“One thing about being an open site is that we’re never sure who will be coming through the door,” Ms. Harrison said. “We don’t know their age, or how many there will be that day — it’s challenging.”

Typically, children receive a sandwich, milk, fruit cup and an apple. On one special day of the week they are treated to a slice of pizza, milk, juice, fruit cup and a granola bar.

Last year, the library gave out 1,068 meals during the 39 days of the program, and that was with very little publicity.

“I think we barely scratched the iceberg,” she said of the numbers. “It’s such a big community and the library is difficult to get to and across town from a lot of people. We’re just doing the little bit that we can to help.”

Though being a feeding site is a lot of work for the library, Ms. Harrison said that being involved is very rewarding for all of the employees.

“It’s definitely hectic having to count the food when it comes in, making sure everything is fresh … it’s time consuming,” she said. “But it really is so satisfying to see the children being able to eat and relax and read for a little while.

“You just don’t realize how many hungry people there are until you literally see them sitting there waiting for a little something to eat that day.”


04/21/13 6:00pm
04/21/2013 6:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) Melanie Leathers and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Melanie Leathers (left) and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

Vanessa Wigington leaned forward in her chair as the man at the front of the room continued to pull slips of paper from the bowl in front of him. There were just twelve charter school kindergarten spaces available now. Her 4-year-old son James would have to get in. He had to.

“Number 36,” the man said, “James -”

Ms. Wigington’s eyes widened.

“-Marlules,” he finished.

She sank back into her chair. The wrong James. Not her son, who suffers from hearing loss and could benefit from the charter school’s smaller class sizes.

Ms. Wigington turned to her sister in the chair next to her and mouthed, “I’m going to throw up.”

The Riverhead Charter School held a lottery at the Riverhead Free Library Wednesday evening to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten, grade 1, 2, and 6 programs.

Charter school executive director Raymond Ankrum said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill, he said.

“For us to have that many applicants, it’s pretty good,” Mr. Ankrum said.

Students who had siblings in the school or were from Riverhead were given preference, then out of town students were called. The dozen or so students who didn’t get in will be placed on a waiting list based on the date of their application, school officials said.

Some parents smiled as their child’s name was called, others whispered a quiet “yes” in celebration. Some high-fived their kids fidgeting in the chairs next to them.

The basement meeting room where the lottery was held was mostly empty; parents who did not attend the lottery will be notified if the child made it into the school or not.

Steve and Shirley Burgess of Middle Island were at the lottery with their three grandchildren, whom they care for. The oldest, 6-year-old Vitali, was placed on a waiting list for first grade, while his younger sister, Amya, was accepted into the kindergarten program.

Ms. Burgess said the family isn’t happy with the quality of Vitali’s education, and were hopeful he would get into the charter school off the wait list.

“That’s all we can ask for right now,” she said.

About 6:45 p.m., the man pulling the names from the bowl, auditor Elliatt Di Lieto, made the announcement for the kindergarten applicants.

“There’s three more seats left,” he said.

In her seat, Ms. Wigington was perfectly still. Her sister, Melanie Leathers, held her hands over her mouth. Another name called, not her son. Two spots left, and three student’s names left in the bowl. The last student called wouldn’t get in and would have to be placed on the waiting list.

Mr. Dilieto pulled a yellow slip from the bowl and read the name.

“Number 46,” he said. “James Wigington.”

Ms. Wigington threw her hands into the air, her face frozen in shock, and her sister clapped and started laughing. The two hugged, and Ms. Wigington sighed. After the lottery, she couldn’t stop smiling.

“I was freaking out,” she said. “I was just nervous it wasn’t going [to happen]. I was thinking of how much I would have to pay for a private school.”

James is now a student at Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. He’ll join his cousin, Ms. Leathers’ daughter, at the Charter School this year. Because he’s enrolled, his 2-year-old sister will get preference when it’s her turn to join the school two years from now.

“Just complete relief and excitement,” Ms. Wigington said. “I’m very excited.”


04/02/13 7:50pm
04/02/2013 7:50 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Free Library's budget vote is TK.

FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.

Voters approved proposed budgets from the Riverhead Free Library, Baiting Hollow Free Library and North Shore Public Library on Tuesday.

Riverhead Free Library officials announced shortly after 8:20 p.m. that its budget passed by a 202 to 55 vote. The Baiting Hollow Free Library’s budget also passed by a 180 to 76 vote, officials said.

About an hour later, North Shore Public Library officials announced its budget passed by a 200 to 24 vote.

Prior coverage:

Voters  in the area’s three public library systems head to the polls today, Tuesday, to vote on operating budgets for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The Riverhead Free Library is proposing a $3.8 million preliminary spending plan, which officials say carries a roughly 4.7 percent increase to the tax levy due to rising employee benefit costs coupled with a loss in revenue.

Library director Lisa Jacobs said the proposed hike to the tax levy —  the total amount of taxes collected in the entire district — pierces the state’s mandated 2 percent cap since the library doesn’t qualify for any exemptions to the tax levy cap, such as certain employee benefits and capital improvements.

Although school districts require 60 percent voter approval in order to pierce the tax cap, Ms. Jacobs said a library’s Board of Trustees only needs to approve the plan by a “50 percent plus one” vote and win a simple majority from the public vote.

“We came in under the cap last year by using some fund balance,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to [come under the cap again] without cutting services this year.”

Ms. Jacobs said anticipated increases in the New York State Retirement System and a loss in revenue from “contract” users makes up the majority of the tax hike.

Residents of the East Quogue, Eastport-South Manor, Remsenburg-Speonk and East Moriches school districts make-up Riverhead Free Library’s contract users. Ms. Jacobs said many of them have decided to go with other libraries that have recently been renovated on the South Fork instead.

“If they work in Riverhead, then they’ll usually sign-up here,” she said. “But, typically, they’ll go with other libraries that have newer buildings.”

Ms. Jacobs said next year’s spending plan contains the final debt service payment of the bonds issued in 1998 for the library’s expansion. She described Riverhead Free Library’s spending as “conservative” while continuing to offer new services, such as its E-book program. Materials are downloaded to electronic devices and are loaned through a digital license that only lasts a certain time, she said.

“I certainly hope our community recognizes the services we offer and the tremendous value they get,” Ms. Jacobs said.

The tax levy increase correlates to about $7 per year increase for the average Riverhead taxpayer based on current assessments and equalization rates, she said.

Because the library’s district covers three towns — Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven — tax rates for each town will not be known until later in the year.

The Riverhead Free Library vote runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the library on 330 Court Street.

Any registered voter in the Riverhead School District can vote in both the Riverhead library vote and the Baiting Hollow Free Library vote, which takes place at the same time and place and is on the same ballot as the Riverhead vote. In the case of both libraries, today’s vote is technically a vote on whether the Riverhead Central School District should contract for library services at the above mentioned budget amounts.

The Baiting Hollow Free Library preliminary spending plan is $11,800, up $100 from the previous year’s budget. The Baiting Hollow Free Library budget has traditionally increased by $100 each year.

North Shore Public Library officials in Shoreham are asking voters to approve a $3.68 million spending plan carrying a 1.9 percent increase to the tax levy.

The library director there, Laura Hawrey, said by prioritizing projects and applying reserves such as fund balance, the budget fit under the state mandated 2 percent cap. The tax levy — the amount of cash the library collects from taxpayers — is expected to increase to $3.46 million.

“We spent a lot of time going over the budget and we’re very proud we’ve had minimal spending increases,” she said.

Ms. Hawrey said the tax hike is the result of the library increasing programs, online resources and its E-books service. The changes are needed in order to meet the demands of residents, she said.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the library raised the tax levy for the first time in four years. If approved, Ms. Hawrey said the proposed budget will cost approximately $7 per year more than last year for the average household.

Registered voters in the Shoreham-Wading River and Rocky Point school districts can vote in the North Shore Public Library budget vote from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The library is located at 250 Route 25A in Shoreham.

TIMES/REVIEW FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library's budget vote is Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.

08/18/12 2:30pm
08/18/2012 2:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Hannah Keiffert and James Yaiullo perform “Knights of Cydonia”

Management Productions, a group of friends with a passion for theater, held their third annual “Evening of Stuff” variety show at the Riverhead Library Friday night, entertaining a full house with music and sketches. The free performance also featured dance and comedy.

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