The year was 1939, and while Elmont was an already established community, it lacked a library. A student named Mildred Katz wrote an editorial for the Community News, in a plea for volunteers to establish a library in Elmont. Twenty students answered the call and the Elmont Library Club was formed. With the support of the PTA and faculty members of the Elmont School District (then comprised of Sewanhaka High School and three elementary schools), along with a door-to-door drive to collect books from residents and local businesses, a store was rented at 593 Hempstead Turnpike for $21.50 a month. Thus was born the Elmont Public Library headquarters, supported by the Elmont Library Club and its first president, Mildred Katz.
Staffed by students and teacher volunteers, the library was open during evening hours; shelves were built by volunteers, a teacher acted as the librarian, and other volunteers made the one room library a thriving, yet inadequate, institution. A petition signed by 500 taxpayers resulted in a $2,000, 1939-1940 budget for the Elmont Public Library, the first public funds authorized for library use in this area.
By 1944, the formation of plans for the new Elmont Memorial Library, as it was to be known, had begun. In September 1945, the Elmont Memorial Library Association approved plans for a building to house a library, trophy room and civic hall. This proposed institution gained publicity when then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in a letter to the Association, “I think your proposal to establish a memorial library is a very good idea and I know that it will not only be much appreciated but also will fill an important need for the returning servicemen.” A plaque was created bearing the inscription, “This library is dedicated by a grateful people to our men and women who served in our Armed Forces, to those who gave their lives this shall ever be a living memorial.” In June 1950, for the Elmont Public Library and its Stewart Manor branch received its charter; the Alden Terrace branch received its charter in October 1955. The new building, located at 1735 Hempstead Turnpike, was dedicated on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1956.
Fifty years later, a new Elmont Memorial Library, on the site of the former Alva T. Stanforth Junior High School at 700 Hempstead Turnpike, opened in September 2006. Chosen as one of the four best libraries on Long Island by Newsday, the Elmont Memorial Library received the 2008 American Library Association Gale Cengage Financial Development Award for create fundraising efforts. The library serves a diverse community spanning North Valley Stream, East Franklin Square, and Elmont, including Alden Terrace and Stewart Manor.
Comprising 60,000 square feet on 3.8 acres, the library’s spacious quarters include three meeting rooms, a children’s story hour room, children’s craft room, a classroom, a quiet study room, two group study rooms, an adult computer area, a gallery and mezzanine. In addition, the Elmont Memorial Library houses a state-of-the-art 6,400 square foot, 430 seat theater, which hosts the Broadhollow Theater at Elmont (www.broadhollow.org) and other performances. Numerous tables with traditional lamps fill the central space of the building, where patrons can be seen daily, evenings and on weekends, reading, studying, researching, computing, and generally enjoying the peaceful environs. A magnificent feature of the central space is the photography that circles the area below the ceiling. Known as the Foster Meadows Elmont History Wall (Foster Meadows being the original name of this area), enlargements of photos – dating back to the first Elmont schoolhouse in 1865 and including such highlights as a 1920s trolley stop on Hempstead Turnpike, the first firehouse of 1927, first library building of 1936, and the Alva T. Stanforth School in the 1950s – surround patrons with glorious images from the past.
As has been an important part of its mission for the past 75 years, the Elmont Memorial Library is proud of its place in the community. It is a hub for programs spanning the interests of all ages and perspectives, among them feature films; dance; arts and crafts; international music; health programs such Reiki healing, nutrition, and arthritis exercise; art and photo exhibitions; guest speakers and performers; community outreach; book discussions; support groups; bridge; poetry workshops; and a plethora of children’s and young adult programs, just to name a few. At the entrance to the building, placed high on the walls bordering either side of the doors, visitors are welcomed with these inscriptions: "This building will forever be a tribute to those brave individuals who selflessly gave their lives to protect our freedom" and "This library is a living memorial, dedicated to the men and women who served in our Armed Forces."
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