With more people doing their reading on electronic devices these days, the Secaucus Public Library and Business Resource Center is keeping up with the times.
“One of our big projects is, we’re going to be lending Kindles,” said Library Director Jenifer May, speaking about the popular e-book reader from Amazon. “We’ve got them ready. They already have books on them.”
Twelve Kindles will be available in the reference library. Each will have about 15 books on it, organized by genre. “We have a mystery kindle, a romance novel kindle,” said May. “We’re thinking about having a fantasy one.” Residents can also request specific titles and the library will look into adding it. Secaucus residents with library cards can take them out for two weeks at a time.
It’s just one of many initiatives taking place at the library this summer and through the months ahead.
“On the horizon we have a robotics program that we’re going to do,” said May. “We’re going to be lending out Arduinos. They look like motherboards that you can attach parts and create your own robot.”
The parts were donated to the library by local company JPods. “They are small programmable computers that you program using your own home computer and then you can hook them up to different parts,” said May. “They’re supposed to be usable for all ages. The target audience is probably late grammar school through adulthood.”
She hopes to make the 20 Arduinos available to library cardholders in the next month or so. “We’re trying to bring in more STEM [science, technology, engineering, math], that’s a big priority nationally and we’re trying to cater to that interest,” she said. “A lot of parents are hoping for more of that.”
With that in mind, a technology librarian was recently added to the staff. New employee Lisa Ferzola is launching a number of programs this summer, including internet classes in the computer lab. Both introductory classes and more advanced classes will be available, with a class on Microsoft Word scheduled for August.
Residents can “book a librarian” for personalized classes on computer functions and more.
Classes are also available for job searching on the internet. Another intriguing new program is “book a librarian.”
“If you find the class doesn’t cover what you need,” said May, “you can book time for half an hour, do a session catered toward what you want to learn.” Ferzola has already given individualized classes on how to use the Kindle, the iPad, and the library card catalog for interlibrary loans.
Because the Secaucus library belongs to the BCCLS group – Bergen County Cooperative Library System, pronounced “buckles” – residents can access an online card catalog and borrow books, CDs, or other materials via interlibrary loan from any of 74 libraries. (Although the program started in Bergen County, it subsequently expanded to Hudson, Essex, and Passaic Counties. Only the name stayed stationary.)
Also available to Secaucus residents is the Museum Pass program, which allows free entry to numerous museums. Library cardholders can pick up passes at the second floor reference desk. Passes are good for at least two adults (specifics vary by location) and are good for either Tuesday to Thursday or Friday to Monday.
The second floor Panasonic Room was out of commission for a while after Superstorm Sandy while FEMA used it as a base office for the region. Now that it’s available for public use once again, May has plans to use it for a variety of activities, including the library’s “one world” programs. The series presents music from across the globe in what May calls “a multicultural concert and performance series,” complete with ethnic crafts and food.
“We’re also going to be doing more traditional classical music concerts,” she said. “We have a big cello one coming up on Oct. 12.” E. Zoe Hassman will be performing on cello with a jazz bassist on that date.
Residents more interested in the cinema can enjoy free movies at the library every Tuesday afternoon. Requests are accepted, and refreshments are served. The library also sponsors the summer movies in the parks.
Photography buffs can enjoy the photography club, which meets the fourth Wednesday of each month. “It’s a place where people can bring photos if they want to be critiqued,” said May. “Or bring equipment if have questions. They can also talk about things they’re thinking of trying.”
For those learning English, the library provides ESL classes and conversation groups. And classes in Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi are available for children.
Children can also participate in Extended Story Hour, a program running from September until May. Groups of 25 kids participate in crafts and games for two hours, twice a week, and get a story and snack. The upcoming season is already fully booked.
Classes, groups, and the fair
The library hosts small business classes on Wednesday mornings. “Those are run through SCORE,” said May, referring to the U.S. Small Business Administration program. “They’re not classes so much as a counseling group. They meet with people interested in starting or who just started a small business, and advise on setting up or ways to improve your business. They also take phone calls and set up appointments outside those hours as well.”
In addition, several support groups meet monthly at the library, including a Multiple Sclerosis Support Group and an Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group sponsored by Comfortkeepers. Although neither group is directly affiliated with the library, “They do use the space to meet and we encourage people to attend,” said May.
“Charity boxes are something that we allow in our library if somebody is trying to collect for particular charity,” she added. “They can talk to me and we allow them to put the box in the hallway. Right now we have an enormous box for shoes.”
Unico holds meetings in the library (currently on hiatus), as does the Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis in fact works closely with the library on the annual mini-fair, scheduled for September to raise funds for the library.
“We have vendors and performances by local dance clubs, musical groups, and martial arts performances,” said May about the mini-fair. “We do crafts for kids, games for kids, carnival games, a baking contest and bake sale, turkey toy raffles, everything you can think of as a fundraiser in one afternoon.”
This will be the 17th year for the mini-fair, which also includes a huge book sale.
And finally, the library will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year. In anticipation of the event, former Library Director Katherine Steffens is compiling information and documentation on the history of the library, from its beginnings in the attic of the old town hall through its first building in the center of town to the current location, which opened in 2003.
“Kathy is hoping to put together a digital history of the library starting at conception,” said May. “She’s interviewing people who have memories of the library and reviewing all the minutes from meetings. We hope to gather as much information as possible from members of the public.”
Residents with recollections of any of the library locations or who own any pictures or artifacts are encouraged to contact the library and contribute to the project. All photographs or other items will be scanned and returned.
“Kathy’s doing a lot of research,” said May. “She might put a book together.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.