Shelter Island Reporter editorial: At the Center of town

In early March 2020, Island institutions were forced to plan and put into practice methods to survive while serving the public.

The Town Board put together a team, led by Police Chief Jim Read, to offer guidance on protecting residents from COVID-19 and redirect town staff toward that objective. Essential businesses rallied to continue to serve customers, and the school went into immediate action, shutting down and working diligently on at-home school programs, providing laptops and WiFi where needed, as well as making sure students who depended on school lunches received them.

And the Library, on equal footing as those other institutions for its importance to the life of Shelter Island — located symbolically as well as geographically in the Center — went into action to continue as an educational and cultural resource for all Islanders.

The staff, led by Director Terry Lucas, quickly and efficiently mastered becoming a virtual presence, continuing its programs for kids and seniors, as well as Islanders of all ages. The website is state-of-the-art, easy to navigate, and has all of the Library’s multiple programs just a click away, including author visits, book discussions, craft sessions, lectures, instructional sessions on technology, programs for teens and younger children, music, career services, and much more.

Ms. Lucas, along with Assistant Director Laura Dickerson and Reference Librarian Jocelyn Ozolins, have never strayed from achieving the Library’s mission to serve the community, and have worked, along with the entire staff, to tirelessly keep it thriving, welcoming and essential to Shelter Islanders. Also singled out for praise should be the Library’s Board of Directors and Friends of the Library.

Congratulations to the Town Board for presenting a proclamation on July 9 to Ms. Lucas for the work the library has done and is doing during these difficult times, and for all the efforts it has put forth in tandem with the town to keep the community informed on public policy and on programs to help those in need. 

As author Katie King has written, good libraries must be seen for what they are now, “not a nice neighborhood amenity but foundational social infrastructure. They are places where children are developing confidence and a sense of agency as they choose books, play and explore. They are places where children find caring adults … They are places where parents and caregivers can gather and connect, filling a void when extended families are often far away. At a time when so many children’s experiences are optimized toward achieving a future goal, libraries are places where children are treated not as adults in training but as full people worthy of joy and love and learning. Together, we must decide whether we want a future where libraries are flourishing, well resourced public spaces or whether we acquiesce to the temptation to settle for private spaces that are inaccessible to many.”

The Shelter Island Public Library is thriving because it understands its essential role, and goes all out with intelligent, sound leadership to achieve its goals.