For years, the Freeport Memorial Library has tailored special programs for residents of all ages at its building, but there was one age group that had long proved difficult to serve — tweens.
These youths, ages 10 to 12, are too old for some of the children’s activities but not quite old enough to join teen groups. The library has a Children’s Room and Teen Room, but Library Director Ken Bellafiore asked, “What about those kids in between?”
After receiving more than $175,000 in state aid secured by State Sen. John Brooks and Assemblywomen Judy Griffin and Taylor Darling, Bellafiore said the library would construct a space specifically for tweens called the “Inn-B-Tween,” where tweens can gather to socialize and take part in library programs catered to them.
“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time now, and I’m looking forward to creating a space for tweens at the library,” Bellafiore said.
“It has been said that ‘a library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life,’ and we are delighted to be able to facilitate the funds necessary to maintain and improve the Freeport Library and our outstanding New York library system,” Brooks said.
The Inn-B-Tween room will be an enclosed room adjacent to the stacks area, encompassing about 500 square feet.
It will include bookshelves, a librarian’s desk, a smartboard, stackable chairs and mobile tables, which will make rearranging the room to fit the tweens’ needs easy.
Bellafiore said about a thousand students attend the Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School, which houses the Freeport School District’s fifth- and sixth-graders, so the village has a large tween population.
He added that while the library used to perform routine visits to the school district, the pandemic has hampered this year’s outreach efforts.
“Normally we go around giving library cards to students graduating from Atkinson who are moving up to the Dodd Middle School, but the pandemic made it difficult to do that this year,” Bellafiore said. “We want to do all we can for this age group, so I’m hoping the tween room can help us stay connected with them.”
The pandemic also brought about other significant changes for the library, as it closed down by the end of March and began adapting to an online model to meet residents’ needs.
During the shutdown, the library introduced two new digital services for residents, the RBdigital Magazines online archive and Kanopy, free streaming service for films, documentaries and educational videos. The digital services continue to be a big hit in the community even after the library reopened in June.
Last month, about 250 residents were using RBdigital Magazines and more than 500 were using Kanopy. And the library saw 1,213 checkouts in its ebook and audiobook platforms.
The library also acquired 25 Wi-Fi hotspots to lend to patrons, 20 more than it had before the pandemic. Bellafiore explained that with increasingly more people working and studying from home, the need for the library’s Wi-Fi hotspots grew, so the library acted to meet demand.
Residents are also free to use the public computers at the library for up to an hour a day.
Bellafiore added that the library’s virtual events have also been a success, with about 450 people attending dozens of adult programs in September, and more than 300 people attending the youth programs.
“People have really taken to our programs, from STEM lessons with students to meditation and mental wellness exercises for residents of all ages,” Bellafiore said. “We had given out more than 150 digital library cards to our patrons, and we encourage everyone to get a physical library card to make the most out of everything we have to offer.”
Library officials said they hope to have the Inn-B-Tween completed next spring. The project is estimated to cost $350,000, with the state grant offsetting nearly half of that figure.