One of the more popular and growing programs at local libraries in recent years is the addition of museum passes to repertories that enable families of up to six to enjoy a full day’s outing at a local children’s museum, a city museum or even a cultural landmark – all for free!
Are you a cultural wanderer, curious about our rich history? Perhaps you can visit Walt Whitman’s Birthplace, the Old Bethpage Restoration Village, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center or the New York Historical Society.
For kids there is the Long Island Children’s Museum and the Children’s Museum of New York City. Or, for art enthusiasts there are trips to the Nassau County Museum of Art, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as the Guggenheim and the Museum of the Moving Image.
Or, do you or your children prefer aviation? Try the Cradle of Aviation Museum, the American Airspace Museum or the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, for starters. Interested in gazing toward the heavens? Then there’s the Vanderbilt Planetarium. How about the history of firefighting? Try the Nassau County Firefighters Museum. And just how were those subway lines of New York City built? There’s the New York Transit Museum to explain it.
For library patrons wishing simply to surround themselves with the fervent beauty of nature, there are the Old Westbury Gardens and the New York Botanical Garden.
These are but a handful of the types of museum passes that local libraries now make available to their patrons to explore the worlds around them.
“It’s a wonderful program,” remarked Toni Cabat, a North Bellmore resident and patron of the North Bellmore Public Library who uses the passes on a regular basis. When she first began using them several years ago she had her pick of practically any one she wanted, she said. “It was one of the library’s best-kept secrets.”
Long Island Children’s Museum is the most popular library pass among all county library passes
Not so today, as there can be waiting lists to get any of several popular passes each the local libraries now possesses (see sidebar). In fact, local libraries such as the Bellmore, Merrick, North Bellmore and North Merrick libraries may carry more than one pass to a particularly popular museum, to enable more than one family of patrons to attend at one time.
For example, each of the passes could be substantial enough to permit two adults and four children to attend a museum, and do so for free. Grandparents or parents could take their grandchildren or children to a museum for a full day’s outing, and enjoy discounts in parking, at the gift shop or at the cafeteria while at the museum, as well. Patrons should ask at the library reference desk when picking up a pass what discounts and options may be available with it – because each membership is different – and what restrictions apply.
“We had friends from out of town come to visit us for several days,” Cabat recently told Your NewsMag. To make sure there was plenty for her friends to see and do, Cabat took out several museum passes -one pass, one day at a time – that ensured parties of four-to-six could enter, and which also became part of a well-orchestrated plan to help her serve as a consummate host while those friends were in town.
What are among Cabat’s favorites? They remain The Old Westbury Gardens and the New York Botanical Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA), the Old Bethpage Restoration Village and the New York Historical Society.
MOST POPULAR PASSES
The most popular library museum pass to obtain at present – especially during regular school and summer recesses – is to the Long Island Children’s Museum, with a strong second being the Cradle of Aviation, both on Nassau County’s Museum Row.
Angela Capone, in charge of programming at the Merrick Library, said a museum pass to the Long Island Children’s Museum can help parents provide a safe, productive and fun place for their children who are off from school during winter and summer recesses, and during holidays. “It can keep the kids busy” with interactive events to become involved with, she said.
North Merrick Public Library Director Tom Witt counts the LI Children’s Museum and the Cradle of Aviation as among his top passes “going out the door,” as does Elaine Cummins-Young, director of the Bellmore Memorial Library. “The Long Island Children’s Museum not only appeals to families to go out together and get involved in a fun, educational and interactive activity, but it is also very cost-effective “ for those following a budget, she said.
Janis Schoen, an early promoter of museum passes as a member of the Nassau County Librarians Association – and director of the Massapequa Public Library, said that across the spectrum of libraries in the county, the Long Island Children’s Museum is by far the most popular pass. She added it is why most libraries will obtain at least two passes to it, so that more than one family at a time can attend.
After the children’s museum in popularity, Schoen cites the Cradle of Aviation, MOMA, the Nassau County Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum as others.
Nassau County’s new Firefighters Museum is on the famed county Museum Row
Offering a variation on what is the “most popular” pass at present, Rosemary DeFrancisci, media librarian at the North Bellmore Public Library, said that quite often the most popular museum pass is the one a patron can pick up at a moment’s notice while at the desk inquiring. “Patrons will come into the library and, on a whim, ask what museum passes are available at that precise moment to take out,” she said. Whatever pass is available at that moment becomes the most popular pass of the day, she added.
Better yet, patrons who know about what passes are available at what times can simply stop in to see about obtaining one, and then be on their way with it, said Bellmore’s Cummins-Young.
Cabat noted that when she has had doctors’ appointments in the city, she will visit the library to see what passes might fit into her schedule while in the city.
CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL MISSIONS
Providing museum passes for free to library patrons started many years ago when museums began contacting libraries to offer memberships to the libraries to join their museums, sometimes at discounts.
North Bellmore’s DeFrancisci told Your NewsMag that the “mission of museums and of libraries is not that far apart: to be both educational and cultural.” With similar missions, museums will reach out to libraries to get their patrons into the space – and in the process drive new revenues to the museums with increased sales at the gift shops and cafeterias, even with discounts applied.
Schoen, as an early advocate, quickly picked up the mantle to contact museums around the region to see if they, too, would consider providing memberships. “I became a one-woman crew” in contacting museums, she said. “I called to see if perhaps I could get better prices for all association libraries.”
She’s been at it since. “The newest one for libraries is the New York Transit Museum,” she said.
A difficult library membership to obtain for passes at present is the new Whitney Museum in New York, at the end of the new Highline Park in New York City, because it has just opened.
As a line item of programming within library budgets – meaning museum memberships and passes are paid for with taxpayer dollars – Merrick’s Capone has been able to take the “bundling” concept of both library and museum having a similar mission to another height.
She said the library has been successful in promoting the uses of local museum passes when they are linked to similar-themed programs the library presents throughout the year.
“If we have an art lecture at the library by a museum docent,” she explained, the library can, by logical extension, promote a pass to MOMA or the Nassau County Museum of Art to take in an art exhibit, such as the present exhibit of American iconic photographer Ansel Adams.
“Or,” she continued, if the library features a writing workshop –as the Bellmore library offers once a month by the Long Island Writers Guild – “then we can suggest a pass to the Walt Whitman Birthplace Museum” to further their curiosity by experiencing the history of America’s greatest poet, and learn how he developed his craft.
Each of the passes offers something for nearly every age group and special interest. While children and their families will enjoy outings to the children’s museums, adults can find a variety passes to quench their zest to see or learn something new.
Cabat explained she will pick up Old Westbury Garden passes especially when she knows there will be a special event at there, such as a show on roses or peonies, for example. She also recommends the train show at the New York Botanical Garden starting in November and carrying through the entire holiday season. “But you have to book well in advance for that pass,” she cautioned.
North Merrick’s Witt said his library offers a pass to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages – the only local library at present that does – because “That museum has an incredible collection of early European carriages that clearly rivals any collection assembled in Europe or anywhere.”
While mainly for early European history buffs, patrons can approach their local library to inquire if such a pass could become available to them.
Concluded North Bellmore’s DeFrancisci, “The idea of any library is to attempt to cover the widest possible range of residents it can, and to provide and cultivate a collection of museum passes that will appeal to all” of their cultural and educational interests.