Romaine: “We’re here to celebrate libraries”

Comsewogue Public Library Honors Original Research Committee at 55th Anniversary Ceremony

Surrounded by City of Brookhaven officials, members of the Comsewogue Public Library honored their founding research committee at a 55th anniversary celebration.

The Library Research Committee was the group of community members formed in 1966 at the embryonic stage of the Library. The original committee members were the first to explore ideas and obtain permits to charter a new library that would serve the communities of Port Jefferson Station and Terryville.

Debbie Engelhardt, director of the CPL, told the story of the library’s beginnings and the important role the committee played in its development.

“Today we shine the spotlight on the Library Research Committee, a group of citizens who came together and worked together to establish a library for the community,” she said. “They formed in 1966 with an original committee of six members, plus an advisor, and followed the steps required by New York State for the state to charter a public library.”

“It was a tremendous act of vision to see a need and start planning… We owe a huge debt of gratitude to this search committee.”

—Jonathan Kornreich

While most of the committee members are deceased, library records provide enough information to produce a probable account of its early life. Records indicate that the committee envisioned the library as a community center for scholarship and intellectual enrichment.

“We have many documents that help us reconstruct the timeline from the time,” Engelhardt said. “It looks like the committee worked quickly and the community was supportive of where they got a charter.”

The idea of ​​honoring the search committee was first floated by Jan Kielhurn, daughter of Jasper Newcomer, one of the six committee members. Kielhurn said she was looking for a book one day when she decided to look for a plaque with her father’s name on it. Finding none, she asked Engelhardt to explore ways to formally recognize the library’s early leadership.

“I had come here to buy a book and all of a sudden I was looking around and realized that there was nothing to indicate my father’s contribution to the beginning of all this,” said she declared. “I had spoken to Debbie and she told me there was going to be a board meeting and she was going to talk about it then. That’s how it all happened.

The daughters of Jasper Newcomer, one of the original six members of the library’s research committee. Pictured: Lee Kucera (left) and Jan Kielhurn (right). Photo by Raymond Janis

Lee Kucera, Kielhurn’s older sister, remembers their father’s commitment, dedication and collaboration with the other committee members when the library was founded. “They got together and went everywhere they needed to go — several different places — to get the dokey okey on it,” Kucera said.

In 1967, Newcomer unfortunately died shortly before the inauguration of the library. At the time of his death, Kucera remembers his father’s enthusiasm for the project.

“He was very excited about it,” she said. “He was very, very interested in education and reading, and he really thought it was something that everyone should be lucky enough to have.”

Knowing of their father’s dreams for the institution and the personal sacrifice he and the committee had made for the good of the community, Newcomer’s daughters both agreed that he would be delighted if he was there to see the library. today.

“He probably would have been very happy, probably looking for other ways to help him,” Kucera said. “He probably would have helped make sure there were computers.” She added: “That would have been one of her babies.”

During an official dedication ceremony, Engelhardt presented a plaque with the names of the original members of the library’s research committee. The plaque will forever enshrine these names in the history of the library, honoring the visionary citizens whose aspirations became reality and whose imprint is left on the community to the present day.

Brookhaven officials present two proclamations to the Comsewogue Public Library. Pictured (L-R): City Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Jan Kielhurn, CPL Director Debbie Engelhardt, Council Member Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) and City Historian Barbara Russell. Photo by Raymond Janis

Brookhaven officials were also present at the ceremony. Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (right) said events like these help remind people of the reasons for serving the community and the important function the public library plays as a repository of information for his members.

“All good ideas usually start with one or two people talking about something and then they grow,” he said. “Today the city issued two proclamations, one recognizing the huge influence this library has had on this community, the second recognizing this research committee that started this with an idea.”

“Libraries make us better citizens. Libraries build better communities. We are here to celebrate libraries. —Ed Romaine

Since serving on the Long Island Library Resource Council long ago, Romain said he has cultivated a deep understanding and appreciation for the valuable work libraries do every day to make communities wiser. and better.

“They are repositories of a lot of information – not just books, but all kinds of multimedia,” the city supervisor said, adding, “That’s where we come to learn things, that’s where we come to learn about the world around us. us. Libraries make us better citizens. Libraries build better communities. We are here to celebrate libraries.

Also in attendance was council member Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook). He pointed to the solid foundation established by the library’s research committee, a foundation that still sustains the library to this day.

“It was a great act of vision to see a need and start planning,” he said. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to this search committee.”

Since the founding of the library, the world has undergone remarkable transformations. These profound changes have reshaped the way humans relate to their technologies and to knowledge itself. Kornreich has touted the library’s leadership throughout its 55-year history for its willingness to adapt to changing times in service to the community.

“Fifty-five years ago when this was built, we wouldn’t have had computers or printers, there was no internet and there was no digital media,” said the council member. “They could never have imagined the changes that have taken place.” He added, “Under the able leadership of our Board of Trustees and our Library Director, this institution continues to evolve and serve the community.”

“I think modern ideas and a progressive way of thinking have always been part of the 1960s vision and it remains so today.”

—Debbie Engelhardt

More than half a century after the founding of the committee, the Comsewogue Public Library continues to exist in symbiosis with the community. While men and women like Newcomer foresaw how a public library could foster creative thinking and community enrichment, the library and community members keep that visionary spirit alive today.

“It is clear to me that from the research committee to the original library board to the original administration, there was a broad vision of an institution of excellence for this community,” Engelhardt said. “I think modern ideas and a progressive way of thinking have always been part of the 1960s vision and they still are today.”

The names of the original members of the Library Research Committee: Carol Benkov, Anne Herman, Florence Hughes, Laurence Lamm, Jasper Newcomer, June Tilley and Gus Basile, Advisor.