On October 16, 1974, the Connetquot school district, covering an area of 21.1 square miles, voted in favor of establishing a public library with a $175,000 budget. The inaugural five members of the Board of Trustees elected were James Bunting, Robert Dennis, Susan Furfaro, Eileen McArthur, and John Randazzo. The Board began working on securing a NYS Board of Education charter, preparing bylaws and hiring a Library Director to administer the new institution.
In January 1975, the first Library Director, Joy Meisels, was appointed. After extensive discussions regarding the location for a new library building, a site just south of the school district administration building, at 760 Ocean Avenue in Bohemia, was chosen and designated by the school district for library use.
While the module buildings were being constructed, library service commenced with a small staff fervently working on the 2nd floor of the school administration building. Thousands of books were ordered and processed for the forthcoming library, with the first book added to the new collection being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. With a grant from the New York State Division of Library Development, $50,000 in reference materials was acquired with all finished books provisionally held at the Edith Slocum School in Ronkonkoma until the prefabricated building was ready for occupancy.
On Monday July 14, 1975, a dreary overcast day, the long awaited grand opening of the Connetquot Public Library took place. In spite of the weather, more than 1,000 residents came in that first day to sign up for a library card and to register for the Summer Reading Club. Despite the sizeable collection of 10,000 items, the overwhelming community turnout led to concern that the library would run out of books before the end of the day! On October 26, 1975, a dedication for the Connetquot Public Library was held with the lease for the land and charter being formally presented by the Board of Education and the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, respectively.
In July 1976, Joan Zaleski was appointed as the new Library Director and planning began to erect a new permanent building for the library. In December 1976, residents approved a referendum to seek $1,200,000 in federal funds to begin construction. By October 1977, the Public Works Capital Development and Investment Program only granted $598,000, which was used to break ground on a 16,000 square foot one-storied building in December 1977, designed by district resident and architect Ronald Benedict.
Opening on November 28, 1978, this spacious facility added room for thousands of books, records, periodicals, and even artwork to the growing collection, as well as allowing the library to offer additional programs to the community. The programs ranged from craft workshops, plays and story hours to films, animals shows, and live musical entertainment. Many of the programs took place on the lawn, with patrons being asked to bring their own lawn chairs, or among the public reading area.
In order to continue the library’s transition to a community center, voters approved an $800,000 expansion to construct a much-needed Community Room and to increase the modest size of the Children’s area in October 1984. This section of the building opened in the autumn of 1986 and gave the library an opportunity to offer a greater number of programs in a designated space, thereby not disrupting those who came to read or study.
During the 1980s, advancements in audio-visual technology brought changes to the library’s collection. The vinyl record music collection was superseded by audio cassette, which in turn gave way to compact discs. Fiction and nonfiction books became available on cassettes allowing readers with limited sight, drivers who enjoy listening while they travel, and others the opportunity to experience a good book. The arrival of the VCR into people’s homes ushered in a new collection which offered movies and instructional films, and quickly became one of the most popular portions of the collection.
In the 1990s, the surging growth of home computers pushed the technology into the mainstream and soon became as essential as pen and paper. The library kept pace with these changes by converting from Commodore 64 and Apple II to the latest Windows PCs. Circulating CD-ROMs were added to the collection which enabled patrons to experience new and interesting software at home. Popular computer classes were offered each month at the library on the crucial topics of the time, such as word processing, database searching, graphic design, and Internet use and safety.
In 1992, a revolution in organization was unveiled as a computerized text-based catalog replaced the traditional card catalog. Instead of shuffling through drawer upon drawer of cards, library users could now search thousands of materials much faster. This transition opened the door for the catalog to soon integrate graphics and be available to browse online from home.
The rise of the Internet in the 21st century brought great changes to the library as new methods for acquiring and providing information emerged. Reference questions could now be asked in person, by phone, email, or text message. Furthermore, librarians could now answer these questions with authoritative information found online. The library website was developed to display details on library services and to provide an organized pathway to the vast amount of information available on the Internet before evolving into the gateway for all digital library services. Computers equipped with high-speed Internet connections and Wi-Fi access throughout the building enabled patrons to engage the growing world of digital information quickly and easily with the assurance that a librarian was still there to help them at any point. Additionally, online reference databases joined the online catalog as a library resource available for home use.
In October 1997, the community approved a three million dollar bond issue to expand the existing building and add over 20,800 feet of space for more shelving, technology, seating, and restrooms. This new Adult Services area, which opened in March 2001, was designed to enhance computer use and allow for a comfortable and enjoyable place to study and read. Tiled floors in the older sections of the library were replaced by carpet and the Children’s Services area was later expanded to add a larger computer area and play space for preschoolers. The collection continued to grow and soon came to include new AV formats, such as DVD and Books on CD.
In 2003, Kimberly DeCristofaro was named as the new Library Director and prepared to lead the library into the 21st century. In response to a shift in technology trends, the library began offering digital content, such as electronic books, and training for patrons utilizing their own personal mobile devices. Even in the information driven reality of the modern world, this reinvention of service has helped continue the library’s reputation as a place to go for answers and support.
The library’s integration of modern computer technology continued to grow in an attempt to create a secure and streamlined experience. All public computers were upgraded to include larger screens and a convenient self sign-in feature to ensure privacy to the user. Traditional services, such as printing and faxing, were bolstered by new offerings, such as scanning and digital microfilm viewing. In order to offer our younger patrons the latest and greatest in education and entertainment, Children’s Services was outfitted with a collection Apple iPads loaded with apps.
The library updated its website and online catalog to the latest standards, even developing a mobile application, in order to provide library service to our patrons 24/7. Rather than merely providing information about library services, the website evolved into the gateway for all digital library services, with the catalog becoming a sophisticated research tool that allows patrons to check their account status, pay fines, find reviews, place holds ,and download electronic content. Furthermore, the library continues to market its services through traditional channels, such as print, as well as more recent methods, such as social media.
Library service continues to grow through the offering of innovative programming and initiatives for adults and children of all ages. While books and AV materials are still popular, the library continues to broaden our offerings with new circulating items, such as museum passes. In addition, program attendance continues to grow as the library strives to create memorable in-person experiences for our patrons by providing concerts, movies, classes, and a wide array exciting sessions for children.
The growth of the library from a one-room building into a spacious community center continues as the layout of the existing building is consistently reevaluated to meet the ever changing needs of the community. Many areas of the building, especially the older sections, require upkeep in order to continue to offer services in a clean and safe environment. In 2010, the older sections of the building underwent an extensive asbestos abatement, as new carpeting and tile was installed. By 2013, the lobby restrooms received their first renovation to update the aged plumbing and aesthetic.
As the building and its collection have grown, so has the staff. The library began with just three employees; a director, a secretary, and a library clerk. Today, the staff consists of more than 80 employees, mostly part-time and district residents. They are divided into Administration, Adult Services, Children’s Services, Circulation Services, Computer Services, Technical Services, Maintenance and Pages.