Need a break from the summer sun? CAR-pe diem — as in, jump in the car with the family and take the Nassau or Suffolk county Library Tour.
“It’s like an adventure; how many can we get to in each day?” says Jessica Verni, 34, an audiologist from Manorville who has been doing the tour with her two children, ages 5 and 1, and her mother, who is 60. “We went to the Montauk Lighthouse with library passes and stopped at every library along Montauk Highway — Montauk, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Southampton. We made a whole trip out of it.”
The children played in the libraries’ outdoor areas, in their playrooms and on the computers, Verni says. “Our next trip will be Commack, Smithtown and Hauppauge,” she says.
The Nassau tour ends Aug. 12 and the Suffolk tour ends Aug. 31. Participants have the entire time period to visit participating libraries.
HOW THE LIBRARY TOUR WORKS
Participants pick up a free map of the Nassau libraries at any of the 58 participating buildings. The Nassau Library System offers token prizes as participants finish visits to 5, 15, 30, 50 and 58 buildings; they include tattoos, tumblers, buttons, baseball caps and their most popular item — a plush stuffed cat wearing a library tour T-shirt. The library system offered such a tour in 2019; this is the second time they are doing it.
“Most people only see their home libraries,” says Lisa Zuena, communications and marketing specialist for the Nassau Library System, which has 54 member libraries and a total of 60 buildings, 58 of which are participating in the event. “Some people may have an outdated idea of what a library offers, and they don’t even realize it.” Close to 53,000 people have participated in the tour so far this summer, and more than 180 have finished all 58 buildings, Zuena says.
In Suffolk, participants can pick up a free passport-style booklet at any of the Suffolk sites and collect stamps as they visit each library building. Suffolk offers raffle tickets to tourgoers who finish 5, 15 and 25 visits for the chance to win Barnes & Noble gift cards and a Nook, says Derek Ivie, youth services coordinator for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.
This is the Suffolk system’s first year offering a tour. While Suffolk has 56 member libraries, finishing 25 is considered completing the tour, Ivie says. “We’re a much longer county and we didn’t want people to have to drive end to end if they didn’t want to,” Ivie says.
FISH TANKS, ROOFTOP GARDENS, LATTES
“It’s something we can all do together that nobody gives us a timetable for. We can do it at our own pace,” says Marcie Litjens, library director at Center Moriches Library who is also doing the tour herself with her three children, ages 12, 17 and 19. “This has been a good opportunity to go to other libraries and check them out.”
For example, in Suffolk, Litjens’ Center Moriches library has a cafe that serves lattes, muffins and other items. Islip Library has a 350-gallon fish tank. The Cold Spring Harbor Library is located on the Cold Spring Harbor State Park Greenbelt trail and a visit could be combined with a hike.
"We thought it was nice to go see a lot of the libraries we had never seen before," says Joe Litjens, 19. "Personally, I liked the Quogue Library a lot. It was very quiet and it was very pretty."
In Nassau, Mineola Library has a book-cover staircase, Port Washington has rooftop seating. Some Nassau libraries have cutouts people can pose with along the tour for photos.
Jessica Katz, 46, a teacher from North Bellmore, her husband, Evan, 46, a paralegal, and their children, Elias, 14, and Ash, 12, were the first to finish the Nassau tour in 2019 and also completed the tour this year, visiting all 58 buildings over two marathon Saturdays. Katz said she had MapQuest set out a route for the family.
Linda Baker, 60, a stay-at-home mother from Bellport, is doing the Suffolk tour with her son, Anthony, 25, and their dog, Oreo, a Chihuahua. “Mostly I did it in the evenings because they were open late,” she says.
NOT JUST FOR FAMILIES
It’s not just families with children who are doing the tour. In fact, the Nassau tour began as an effort to draw millennials into the buildings, Zuena says. “We lose them when they graduate and they turn back up again once they have kids,” she says.
The library system wanted to appeal to that in-between stage, and they modeled the tour after the idea of a pub crawl, she says.
While it has morphed into more of a family undertaking, the first to finish the Nassau tour this year was a group of college students calling themselves The Illiterate Iguanas, Zuena says. And older adults are undertaking the challenge as well.
Krishnan Shankar, who works in telecommunications, and his wife, Mangala, a homemaker, of East Patchogue, finished 25 Suffolk libraries together. They are in their 50s and 40s respectively. Krishnan says he was surprised by how big some of the libraries are — naming Half Hollow Hills in Dix Hills, Sachem and Sayville in particular. Before the tour, he’d only been to the three Suffolk libraries closest to his house, he says.
Their record, the Shankars say, was visiting 13 libraries in one day of the tour; it took them a week to do 25. “It was fun to get our passport stamped,” Mangala says. Krishnan recommended taking the newsletter from each library; he did that and plans to look them over at home and pick out activities that may interest him in the future. “We’ll mark out calendar to go back for those,” he says.
York Roberson, 82, of Uniondale, who retired after working for U.S. Customs, completed all 58 Nassau Library buildings during July. “It became like a mission to me,” he says. “I looked at every library’s 332 [financial economics section] to see if they had something on personal finance. I think we have the most exciting libraries in the world here in Nassau County. Everyone should be knocking their doors down.”