North Merrick Library Launches Oral History Project

The North Merrick Public Library invites you to come and be a part of its day-long oral history project on Friday, November 28. This is an opportunity to record your memories of the library on video. Share with us what the library means to you and the importance of the library in our community. Do you know the library’s history, for example? Was your family part of the early years?

November 2014 marks 50 years since the North Merrick community established its own library. This will be one of many library milestones to be celebrated over the next two years, culminating in an anniversary celebration in 2016 – which is 50 years at the current location. The following is a brief timeline, excerpted from a history of the library, prepared by Debe Lutrin in 1979.

Twice Rejected

Did you know that in 1964 when the establishment of the library was approved it was the third attempt at doing so? Prior to that, North Merrick residents (School District 29) had used the Merrick Library, which was established in 1891. Since North Merrick taxes did not cover Merrick library services, North Merrick residents could become nonresident members for an annual fee of $1.

Attempts to establish North Merrick’s own library were spurred by the population explosion in the 1940s. The North Merrick PTA established a library committee at the beginning of the 1950-51 school year. Was your family part of this initiative?

The committee surveyed the community to see if its own library should be established. At the time, North Merrick’s population was reported to be 10,000 residents, but only 200 of them had purchased memberships to the Merrick Library.

On March 15, 1951, a local newspaper announced the proposal to establish a library in North Merrick. The proposal would be voted on in May. Votes on the proposal totaled 342, with 100 in favor and 242 against. The proposal to establish a library was defeated.

In 1956 the fees for a North Merrick resident to use the Merrick Library increased. Nonresident adults would be charged $4 for membership, and each child’s membership would be increased to $2. In December of that year the discussion reopened for North Merrick to establish its own library. In January of 1957 Merrick Life reported that taxpayers in North Merrick would once again be presented with the opportunity in May to vote on a proposed library for the community.

In May 1957 only 60 people voted at the annual school budget vote, whereas one week later 2,351 votes were cast in the North Merrick Library vote. Ballots in favor were 546, with 1,805 against the establishment of a library. Again the library proposal was defeated, but why such a difference in the number of voters?

Fees Force Third Vote

Fast forward to 1959, when 400 North Merrick residents were members of the Merrick Library – overcrowding was becoming an issue for the neighbors, so much so that memberships would become limited in 1960. By the end of 1960, fees for nonresidents to the Merrick Library were raised to $10 (to help support building expansion) and membership by North Merrick families subsequently dropped to 166.

The population of the community had grown to nearly 16,000 residents. Merrick (School District 25) could not properly serve both North and South Merrick. Also at this time, North Merrick was one of only four districts in Nassau County without its own library. Over the next few years, urged by local newspapers, residents and PTAs, support to create a North Merrick Public Library grew to a new unprecedented level.

On November 21, 1964, votes were again cast, with a different outcome this time: 1,623 were in favor and 564 were against. The proposal to establish the North Merrick Public Library was passed by a landslide vote and a board of trustees was elected. Do you remember the names of those instrumental in the library’s launch?

Over these next two years the library will continue to share its history. Watch for special events to mark this half-century milestone in the North Merrick community.

And the library wants to hear from you! Do you know the answers to any of the above questions? Were you here when the library was first established? Were you a student at the Meadowbrook School before it became the library?

To share your memories, stop in anytime on Friday, November 28 or reserve a time by emailing to anniversary@northmerricklibrary.org – if you can’t make it that day, alternate dates can be scheduled. North Merrick Library looks forward to hearing from you. The library is located at 1691 Meadowbrook Road.

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