Suffolk Cooperative Library Senior Driver Tyrell Jasper sorts through books, ensuring the proper library receives the books that were requested.

Editor’s Note: In April we recognize National Library Week, spotlighting the workers who keep our community libraries running, even despite a pandemic.

BELLPORT — CSEA Suffolk Cooperative Library System workers have been working nonstop since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With fewer entertainment sources available, people have been looking to libraries for books and CDs.

Unlike traditional libraries, the Suffolk County Cooperative Library is not open to patrons, but acts as a
go-between for Suffolk County libraries to share resources. Suffolk Cooperative Library System workers pick up, sort and deliver materials to be shared between libraries.

Workers are also responsible for ordering books that have been requested by surrounding libraries, maintaining records adhering to Library of Congress standards and maintaining research databases.

Library workers also help maintain OverDrive, a free service that allows patrons to borrow digital content like e-books and audiobooks. During the height of the pandemic, public libraries were closed, so patrons could only access libraries through OverDrive.

During last year’s shutdown, CSEA members who work on the library’s digital platforms were able to work remotely, but workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely used their talents to help make personal protective equipment.

“I immediately thought that we should start making face shields for first responders,” said Business Services Supervisor Aurora Maravalli. “We worked cooperatively with Stony Brook Library and Stony Brook Hospital.”

Workers began their project with six 3D printers. They soon received equipment donations from surrounding schools and libraries in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, who heard about the library workers’ efforts. At one point, the printers were running 24/7 and the library workers were sending Stony Brook University more than 200 masks per day.

“It was very humbling to witness that level of generosity from people,” said Maravalli.

Because of pandemic restrictions, there was a lack of available materials to put the face shields together. Members summoned ingenuity that would make MacGyver jealous and used window stripping as the adhesive to hold the shield to the visor.

It was their close relationships that had already been established that made the hefty task easier to accomplish.

“We’re lucky because most of us who work here stay for a long time,” said CSEA Suffolk Cooperative Library Unit Vice President Eileen Edwards. “We are a family.”

“Even working [remotely], I was really proud of the work that they were doing on site,” said Technology and Electronic Resources Supervisor Ellen Nasto. “From the PPE project to helping to manage online requests, I was proud that we could lend support in those ways.”

Despite personal concerns about coming down with COVID-19, library employees say their work is bigger than themselves. Libraries are about community because, “when the going gets tough, the libraries come together regardless of the situation.”

— Wendi Bowie


About Author

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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