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Rockaway Beach Library Set to Reopen for First Time Since Sandy

By Katie Honan | August 17, 2015 3:55pm
 The Peninsula Library will reopen Aug. 18 after being closed since Hurricane Sandy.
The Peninsula Library will reopen Aug. 18 after being closed since Hurricane Sandy.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ROCKAWAY BEACH — Nearly three years after Hurricane Sandy destroyed it, the Peninsula Library will re-open Tuesday with more books, more space and more programs, officials said. 

The one-story building on the corner of Beach 94th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard has been closed since Hurricane Sandy flooded the building in 2012.

Water from the ocean and the bay broke through the building's glass front during the storm, destroying the inside of the building, which was built in 1972.

The Peninsula Library right after Hurricane Sandy damaged it in 2012. (Queens Library)

For years it operated out of a trailer parked outside. But after a $3.6 million renovation, paid for with FEMA funds, insurance, city and state money and private donations, it will reopen on Aug. 18.

Head librarian Matt Allison said the collection is brand new, which he's most excited about.

"It's been great to see the new books come in," he said, adding that they now have 10 times more books than they had in the trailer. 

The space has been modeled after the beach and boardwalk, with benches throughout that resemble those up the street and with an ocean blue paint on the walls. 

There are eight new public computers, a new self-service check-out station, two new meeting rooms. 

The Adult Learning Center, which had grown out of its own space with a full slate of programming, has also been expanded.

There's now a separate classroom and meeting room, in addition to an open area for group tutoring. 

Teens will have their own separate space, with cafe tables and a game center.

And there's an enhanced children's room, with a "family place" that encourages educational play with families. 

Children's librarian Nancy Snyder, who's been with the branch for a decade, said she's most excited about the separate space where she will conduct story time, she said.

After Hurricane Sandy, the librarians got used to working out of a cramped trailer outside, which stayed open up until a few weeks ago.

Their usual customers returned, and the librarians said they often found themselves in the role as counselor, listening to customers' storm stories. 

"We were trying to make things normal for people," Snyder said. "It was comforting."

Allison used the time in the trailer to begin a surf and skateboard collection, the only one in the Queens library system and likely the city. 

It's his pet project, he said, and defines the community's library which includes the city's only surfing beach and a skate park.

The Peninsula Library reopens Tuesday, Aug. 18th at 1 p.m. and for the first three weeks won't be shipping books out across the system — so locals will get the first crack at the brand-new books inside. 

A grand reopening ceremony is planned for Sept. 8.