In Honor of: 
East Islip Public Library
East Islip, NY
Why I Love My Library: 

I grew up in the library. From the first moment I was able to sit on my mother’s lap and listen to the librarian’s wonderful voice introducing me to the worlds of The Cat in the Hat and the Berenstein Bears, the library became my home away from home. My hometown library was in a quaint bayside town on Long Island, New York – the East Islip Public Library. From its humble beginnings in a bank in the early 1960s to the library I knew and loved in the late 1960s through 2005, to its current state-of-the-art facility, the EIPL was truly the hub of the town and a very special part of my life.

When I was first allowed to walk and bike by myself in elementary school, guess where the first place I went was? Of course, the East Islip Public Library! I would carry as many books as I could (I read a book a day all through elementary school and even more in the summer) and attended all the library’s special events. They had a reel film player in those days, and I remember how exciting it was to sit on folding chairs in their “special” room in the basement and watch a Disney movie in a front row seat. I had to allow for a lot of time for my early library visits – to watch the fish swimming in the fish tank, catch the newest hobby display in the glass case (hot rod cars, plastic animals, beach shells, etc.), enter the art contest for the next EIPL bookmark, and of course, talk to the librarian. Why? Because she held the key to the next novel that would become my absolute, all-time favorite.

By the time I reached eighth grade, I was old enough to volunteer in the library. For two hours a week, I shelved and straightened books, glued book pockets (yes – with library paste!) and sorted library newsletters (called Little Librafax – long before fax machines were invented) to be distributed to the local elementary schools. Imagine my delight when I was one of the lucky ninth graders chosen for a fourteen hour a week paying job (albeit for $1.00 per hour), which included my own section of the children’s room to be shelf-read every week. I got to know the Dewey Decimal System so well that when children came in to request a book on dinosaurs or paper mache or windmills, I didn’t even need to go to the card catalog (yes – the card catalog – the long wooden kind with index cards), I could walk right to the precise section of the stacks and pull the book they needed within seconds. Speaking of the card catalog, one of my favorite tasks as a “page” was to sort the cards alphabetically and by call numbers in a card catalog sorter, drop them in their slots, and magically pull the poll to make them all fall into place.

Working at the EIPL in high school and college was a dream job. Not only did I have “first dibs” on all my favorite authors as the books came in, but I got to meet everyone in the town. As I got older, I got to be one of the people to lead afterschool drop-in arts and crafts sessions and decorate the library for the summer reading programs. I worked every Saturday from 9am-4pm; the hours just flew by as I shelved, shelf-read, processed books, clipped photos for the clipping files, updated the library scrapbook, showed visitors how to use the photocopy machine (really new technology), and opened and closed the door to the room where people could sign up to use the library word processor (even newer technology). Of course, my favorite part of the day was lunch, where I would choose any book I wanted and enjoy it along with my sandwich, either in the cozy staff room on cold days or outside on the library lawn on warm days.

I have my own family and am a library director now. I live too far to visit the East Islip Public Library more than a few times a year. When I visit, I marvel at the beautiful new architecture, the superb collection, and the new local history room. But I will never forget the library I knew when I was young, I will never forget the feeling of being there at 8:56 am, and knowing that in a few minutes, someone will come to open the front door and the world of reading will open too.

Cara