“The library is the heart of the community,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray.
And it’s a wonderful thing when a heart starts beating again, as it did last Saturday, when the East Rockaway Library — which had been closed for more than 90 days because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy — reopened with fanfare, welcoming Murray and other elected officials, library employees and hundreds of residents and visitors from nearby communities.
“We are so happy to be finally open,” said the library’s director, Betty Charvat. “We have a great staff who dealt with a difficult situation, and they all did a great job.”
The floodwater that flowed through the library, at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Main Street, during the Oct. 29 storm damaged the carpeting and created condensation, which can be fatal to books. “The books didn’t get wet, but they had to be treated because of a potential mold issue,” Charvat explained.
In the days after the hurricane, the staff cleaned up the mess and aired the building out, hauling piles of garbage out its back doors. The damage totaled more than $200,000.
For the past few weeks, the staff has been working out of the much smaller Charles H. Formont Senior Center facility on James Street, offering some books for borrowing and limited service. The reopened main library is almost back to normal, with the exception of the meeting room, which hosted some of the children’s programs.
“We have some programs up and running in the children’s room,” said Children’s Librarian Heather Massa, “and we’re super excited to be back. We worked so hard to get here.”
For resident Ellen Kuhner, who attended the grand opening with her children, Ian, 7, and Anna and Aurora, both 4, it was a day to celebrate. “We missed the library when it was closed,” she said. “As a family with young children, we greatly enjoy [a place] where the librarians know our children’s names, encourage them as readers by recommending new book titles and genuinely care about the community. It was great to see all the friendly faces at the grand opening.”