Part three of a series highlighting North Shore’s librarians.
Michael Morea jokes that he was “born in the library.” He grew up attending Story Times, piano performances and other programs at his hometown library in Bethpage. He spent afternoons working on group projects with his classmates, and worked there as a page while in high school and college.
In a short-lived career as a software developer, he missed the interactions he made between the book stacks. “I found it frustrating not having that direct impact on people,” Morea said. “There’s a lot of community conversations that happen in the library, and you can really have an impact on people’s lives working in one.”
Now 40, Morea, a resident of Oyster Bay, has been the director of the Gold Coast Library in Glen Head since 2011. He said he considers himself lucky to have the position.
“Working here is a very unique opportunity, since the community actually created this library,” he said. Residents voted to develop the Gold Coast Public Library District in 2001. The facility opened in 2005. “It’s been an awesome thing to see it grow,” Morea said.
Rosemarie Ryba, vice president of the library’s board of trustees, said that Morea brings a “boundless energy” to an otherwise small space. “He is an outstanding director who’s done so much,” Ryba said. “He really has gone beyond his responsibilities.”
Morea works with his staff to book programs and find presenters to showcase to the community each month, and with such a breadth of options, it was clear to Gold Coast’s librarians that additional space was needed to accommodate programming. The annex was added in 2009 to support the library’s array of activities.
“Programming used to take place in the middle of the library, so the annex has really allowed us to grow,” Morea said. Six months ago, a second room was built into the annex as additional study space, but it has since become a meeting place for local groups. “With this space, we’re having the library become a community hub,” he said.
The bare walls of Meeting Room B, as it’s come to be known, will soon be adorned with paintings and photos from the past, making use of the library’s local historical collection.
Cultivating a sense of both the past and the present is of great significance to Morea, who describes himself as a product of that sensibility. “In an age where everything is online, the library can be a place where people come back to connect with others,” he said.
The addition of the iPad station in the children’s room, for example, has helped foster communal connections among local children and parents. “With [Michael’s] technology background, he’s brought a lot of new ideas to the library,” said Gold Coast librarian Richard Brower, “and it keeps us on the cutting edge.”
“We try to expose kids to technology without making it about screen time,” Morea said of the iPad station. “The idea there is to give them the opportunity to interact with learning games with their friends, and then the parents are able to discuss and chat and get that social interaction.”
It’s a learning strategy he imparted on his own children when the family moved to Oyster Bay in 2007. “We knew nobody, so one of the first things we did was go to Story Time at the library,” he said. “It made Oyster Bay our home; it wasn’t just a place we lived in.”
And it seems that Gold Coast has become his home. Ryba can still remember one night when the director actually camped out in the children’s room. “It was a really bad winter, and it got so cold the sprinklers froze up and went off,” she said. “He stayed overnight and slept in the library as a precaution to make sure they wouldn’t go off.”
As warmer weather takes over, Morea looks forward to enriching the community through Gold Coast’s summer reading program, which kicks off on Friday, June 8, with a concert featuring local group Just Sixties. The event takes place at the Glenwood Landing American Legion, at 190 Glen Head Road, at 7 p.m.