Friends of the Great Neck Library group forms to aid institution

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Friends of the Great Neck Library group forms to aid institution
The Great Neck Library, pictured here, now has a Friends of the Library group behind it. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck residents have come together to create the Friends of the Great Neck Library group, a not-for-profit group aiming to help the library at an important moment in its history, members announced on Thursday.

The Great Neck Library’s history can be traced to 1880, when a group of women formed a library to benefit the area’s 1,000 residents. The library was formally incorporated in 1889, with the Parkville, Station and Lakeville branches being added over time.

Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar, a founder of the Friends group, said the library is at an important point. While the library has a newly renovated main building and a new director, Denise Corcoran, Gilliar said it also has fewer staff members and books.

So, she said, no time could be better for the Friends of the Great Neck Library to form and help effect change.

“I think this is an important moment for the community to come together and support the library,” Gilliar, who helped rescue thousands of books from being discarded following the renovations of the Main Library in 2016, said in an interview.

A news release signed by members Mimi Hu, Joanne Rosenfeld, Maral Yashar, Robert Campbell, Cheng Ye, Karen Ashkenase, Eric Wang, Mary Alice Cunningham and Raymond Ashaghoff said the group will make efforts to maintain an active association bringing attention to the library and encouraging the community to support it.

“The Friends will focus public attention on the Library, its services, facilities and needs, and it will stimulate the use of the Library’s resources and services,” the group said in a statement. “The Friends will encourage gifts, endowments, and bequests to the Library and will support the Library staff.”

Gilliar, whose daughter Rachel lives in Port Washington and serves on the school board, said the new Great Neck organization also looked to the Friends of the Port Washington Library, which held a fundraising luncheon on Friday that drew hundreds of people in support of the library.

“We hope to generate such enthusiasm and dedication here in Great Neck,” Gilliar said.

Gilliar also noted that the New York Library Association served as an adviser on the group’s formation.

Jeremy Johannesen, the executive director of the association, said there is a close correlation between a library’s overall success and the existence of a friends group supporting the library through fundraising and advocacy.

“I think having a friends group speaks to the level of the support and buy-in from the community,” he said, “because what you’re seeing is a very real demonstration that there’s a level of support within the community that leads itself and lends itself to having a group of individuals come together and give their time to advancing the library’s mission.”

And to Johannesen, that support is really important at a time when libraries are evolving to be “less about the books and more about access” to information.

“It’s not your grandmother’s library anymore in that the way the library meets the needs of the community is evolving,” Johannesen said.

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