By LIZ BUTTON
Extensive improvements to the Eastchester Public Library children’s room were completed March 7, giving a new aesthetic lease on life to a space that had not undergone renovations since it opened in 1967.
After about $60,000 worth of renovations that began soon after the 2013 holiday season, the children’s room now has a new ceiling, carpeting and a new front circulation desk. About 200 people showed up to the grand re-opening celebration of the children’s room on Saturday, March 8.
“It went down to the last minute just to get the new circulation area done,” Eastchester Public Library Director Tracy Wright said. The new, more kid-friendly children’s circulation desk is decorated with plastic hot air balloons and monsters from the classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.
“We wanted the room to be more attractive for the kids, more comfortable,” Wright said.
The room is now also adorned with new chairs and sofas, Wright said, as well as LED lights to replace the old fluorescent lights, a technological change which should help the library save money through lowered maintenance costs.
The library’s plan to redo its children’s room began to take shape last spring, and the town stepped in with funding for fresh new carpeting.
“We were very lucky the town had given us carpeting, which was a capital expense,” and cost $15,000, Wright said.
There were other problems with the room, like serious roof leaks, which could not be fixed right away.
“[Those things] kind of stopped us from doing everything,” Wright said.
The library acquired more funding to fix these issues from corporate sponsors like real estate company Keller Williams, which held a charity fundraiser for the library in October, as well as Stop and Shop, which donated $1,000.
The rest of the money was raised by the library’s “very hard working” Friends of the Eastchester Library group, Wright said, whose work was supported by the Eastchester Library board and its president, Robert Cartolano.
Starting last year, the Friends raised money through fundraisers like a wine-and-cheese night and a kid’s fair, along with donations from member contributions.
The library was in need of a boost in capital since the town cut the library’s budget in 2013 by $183,000, which was on top of the money it took from the library’s reserves to supplement the library’s budget. The cuts necessitated eliminating two positions that year.
But the library was given some relief in the 2014 budget adopted by the council, which called for the library’s budget to remain flat at $1.8 million, although $125,000 was taken from the library’s reserves to supplement the budget.
Children’s librarian Jonathan Heifetz, who has been working at the library since June 2012, said the library as a whole, as far as he knows, has always been a very children-oriented space ever since the building opened in 1947.
Heifetz said one of his favorite additions to the revamped space is a second early-literacy computer with a touch screen that has been added to the library’s older model computers, which still use CD ROMS for educational programs.
The library was permitted to take a portion of the $10,000 programming grant it got last year from the Wells Fargo insurance company to buy the new early childhood computer.
“What I love about [these early literacy computers] is that I’ve seen kids who are literally a year old use them. It’s an amazing thing in terms of engaging early literacy,” Heifetz said. “I think they feel a sense of ‘you can do this.’”
Other additions to the children’s room made possible through donations include a variety of educational software, a rug in the preschool play area, a new story-time rug, puzzles and new shelving for the library’s collection of children’s picture books.