GREENPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – For over a century, Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport, Long Island has been a neighborhood hub.
"We're not on some main drag that has nothing else beside it," library clerk Brian Mealy told CBS2's Elle McLogan. "To me, that's special—that it's almost like we're a house in the community and we're part of the family."
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In addition to rows of books for perusing and quiet corners for reading, the stone building hosts art exhibitions and civic events.
Mealy feels a sense of pride each time he passes the local history room, which houses books about African American history written by his mother Dorothy Mealy.
"At the time that she wrote them, a lot of people would say, 'There's no such thing as African American history,'" he said.
He feels that he has inherited her sense of determination.
"I always think about that, trying to do my best, even when times are tough," he said.
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He sees the library as a place of safety, where the turmoil of the outside world stops at the door.
"It really feels like this is a haven where you can be hopeful," he said.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, the library was forced to adapt with online offerings.
"All of our librarians have remote programs through Zoom. So Poppy, our reference librarian, has her book club. She has a movie club. Our children's librarian Vicky has the program where she does toddler time readings, and she does cooking programs. Our teen librarian Tracey outreaches to the young adults," he said.
Some local residents struggling with new technology while working from home have called the library for tutorials over the phone.
"But as a clerk that works the front desk, the frontline staff, our joy is when people have started to come back into the library. We can share what they've been going through. And lot of our folks, they're the only ones in their house, so the library really is a social and an emotional touchstone," he said.
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Mealy finds meaning in one of the library's longtime traditions.
"When a child is five years old, they receive their library card," he said.
The joy of the ritual and its sense of possibility reminds him why he took this job.
"Not only is literacy important, but unlocking adventures for our young people is so important," he said.
He gets emotional thinking of how much has changed for the kids since he began working at the library eleven years ago; many have had kids of their own and have gone on to lead successful lives.
"You feel like you had a part in that success," he said.
The library welcomes people of all backgrounds and at all stages of life. For the visitors and staff alike, Mealy says that the learning never stops.
"Pulling the veil of ignorance off in terms of people seeking knowledge, that's a sacred calling, and it happens at every public library in the country."
Floyd Memorial Library
539 1st Street
Greenport, NY 11944
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