Great Neck Library gets $50K from county for STEM lab

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The Great Neck Library will be home to a STEM lab with the help of $50,000 in county funding. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
The Great Neck Library will be home to a STEM lab with the help of $50,000 in county funding. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a $50,000 grant for the Great Neck Library to create a STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics – lab on Monday, after a roughly two-year effort.

The STEM lab was mulled since at least 2016, according to a community revitalization program project application filed by county Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), before renovations of the Main Library were completed.

The Community Revitalization Program grant will go towards laptops, virtual reality systems, tablets, gaming computers and 3D printers, according to Birnbaum’s office. Those items, in turn, will be used for instruction on 3D design, printing, game development, coding and other computer skills.

“Expertise in STEM fields better prepares our young people for fulfilling careers, allows adults to enhance their knowledge, and empowers seniors to take advantage of the latest technological opportunities,” Birnbaum said. “I thank my colleagues for supporting this important project and look forward to the creating of a cutting-edge community resource for all ages.”

Danny Schrafel, a spokesman for Birnbaum, said the library will spend the money before being reimbursed by the county.

When asked about the timeline, Schrafel said, “CRPs tend to move kind of slow” due to extensive review and that the two-year timeline is “not atypical.”

At a Finance Committee meeting in June, Library Director Denise Corcoran said that the STEM space could include virtual reality programming, laptop computers and equipment paired with already purchased 3D printers. There could also be laser cutters, coding equipment, engineering systems and other items, she said, but the list of items could “change over time.”

“Until we know exactly where we are with the funding and what we’re going to add, I think it’s a little premature to decide this space or that space,” Corcoran said at the time. “Plus we want to see the need.”

Corcoran was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The laboratory will be located in the Main Library at 159 Bayview Ave. in Great Neck, but will be accessible to Nassau County residents with an active library card.

Robert Schaufeld, the president of the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees, said the library aims to begin work very soon.

“We’re very pleased that the county followed through and awarded us the grant,” Schaufeld said, “and we’re looking forward to having a fully functional STEM lab as soon as possible.”

Additionally, Schaufeld said the library board is working on a policy to ensure 3D printers cannot be used to print weapons like plastic guns.

“The way we have the 3D printer used now is everything is with supervision, so no one could make anything on their own without it being seen and approved by a staff person,” Schaufeld said, adding that the board feels it should “be a firm policy because it’s something that we believe in.”

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