Category Archives: General

Museums in the time of Covid-19, part 2

While you don’t have the pleasure of enjoying the magnificent Warburg House , you can experience the collection of The Jewish Museum. Audio tours highlight some of its treasures. You can also hear conversations with some artists. Just click on the “audio tours” button on the top bar of the homepage. The Cradle of Aviation Museum  offers a photo gallery of its exhibits and panoramic views of each room. Click through each to see the history of aviation from balloon baskets to space exploration.

Do you need a dose of fine art? The Heckscher Museum of Art’s collection online can be browsed by collection or searched by artist’s name. And the Museum of Modern Art has audio commentary about works in the collection and special exhibits.

While the Library does not have passes to The Metropolitan Museum of Art or to the American Museum of Natural History, their online offerings are impressive and a delightful way to while away some time. The beloved Met’s homepage feature “Experience the Met, Anywhere” offers many ways to enjoy the Met’s treasures remotely. There is the Timeline of Art History for an overview of art and global culture. Or check out a variety of audio guides for current exhibitions . If you want to experience the impressive museum galleries, take a look at some of the offerings of the Met 360° where you can visit the Great Hall, the Temple of Dendur as well as the Cloisters.

From home it is easy to get from the Met to the American Museum of Natural History. There’s no need even to cross Central Park! Just click to take a tour of the wonders of the American Museum of Natural History.  You can also enjoy the Google Arts and Cultural Tour ( I think the Pacific Northwest Coast People is a fascinating look at the collection process; and for some fun watch the video about the real life exhibits used in the “Night at the Museum” movies!)

No need to be bored during these days of semi-confinement. Explore, enjoy and learn!

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

Syosset, Woodbury & The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

For the roughly 750 humble citizens of Syosset and Woodbury, the mid-1910’s were a time of extraordinary change. Syosset had just formed its own volunteer fire company, the first automobiles were appearing on Jackson Avenue and Jericho Turnpike, and residents were excitedly discovering the conveniences of electricity and telephone service. For now, life was good.

Each day, the rhythm of handsaws and hammers echoed through the villages as craftsmen converted acres of unproductive farmland into extravagant country homes for young Manhattan aristocrats, many of them financiers who, by 1915, were generating enormous incomes by funding an overseas war for which there was no end in sight. Ironically, many lamented having to cancel European vacations for their own safety during the conflict, completely unaware of the deadly battle that was about to break out right on their own doorsteps.

The War Before The War

or the first three years of what would become World War I, the United States managed to remain neutral and keep its troops out of combat. However, a series of events in 1917 led, first, to a build-up of America’s military and, next, to the country’s full-blown involvement on battlefields throughout the European continent. Soon, thousands of young Americans, including many from Syosset and Woodbury, found themselves stationed at military bases hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

Over the next nineteen months, almost 54,000 American soldiers would die fighting the Central Powers alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. Even more astounding, however, is the number of young, healthy American soldiers – sixty-three-thousand-plus – who would lose their lives to a far more daunting enemy, one that would brutally assault soldiers and civilians around the globe in a relentless campaign that outlasted the war itself.

“The Spanish Flu”

Although there is no definitive explanation for the origin of the massive worldwide Influenza outbreak that occurred more than a century ago, most historians point to the following chain of events:

In March of 1918, a private at a large military base in Kansas reported to the barracks hospital with a sore throat, fever, and headache. Within three hours, more than one hundred of his fellow soldiers had developed the same symptoms; within two weeks, this flu-like illness, which had first revealed itself among Kansas farmers in January of the same year, had landed more than 1,000 soldiers in the base hospital and had confined thousands to their beds. Forty-eight of the afflicted soldiers ultimately succumbed to this mysterious ailment. The rest were dispatched to other stateside training camps, where severe outbreaks quickly occurred and affected tens of thousands of recruits, many of whom were due to be shipped overseas.

As they made their way across the United States bound for combat training in France, soldiers spread their germs on trains and then on ships as they sailed the Atlantic. Arriving at the battlefront, they huddled in trenches with allies from the U.K. and France and further circulated the illness. Those who remained stateside continued to contaminate bases and infect their families when they went home to visit. By the Spring of 1918, this deadly new strain of the H1N1 Influenza virus had swept across the United States and Europe, affecting both military and civilian populations, young and old indiscriminately. By the War Department’s most conservative estimate, Influenza (and the severe pneumonia that typically followed) sickened more than one million recruits and killed almost 30,000 before they even reached the front line in Europe.

To maintain positive morale among troops on the European front, the United States, Britain, and France made a pact to censor all reporting of the outbreak that was sickening and killing hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers every day. On the contrary, Spain, which had maintained its neutrality in the war and was not bound by the secrecy agreement, began openly and accurately reporting cases inside its borders. Consequently, the rest of the world began to view Spain as a hotspot for the deadly, fast-spreading illness, which the U.S. and European media conveniently dubbed “The Spanish Flu.”

Although Influenza (aka “The Grip”) had been a common ailment in the Syosset-Woodbury region for many years, cases of the so-called “Spanish Flu” suddenly exploded in the area in October of 1918, when neighbor after neighbor fell mysteriously ill and several died within weeks of their first symptoms. The Long Islander newspaper reported that “Never before in the best recollections of the oldest residents has this village had such an epidemic of grip and pneumonia. About half our population have been or are down with either, and the physicians are on the go day and night endeavoring to relieve the suffering community.”

Medical scientists of the time were baffled by the seemingly indestructible potency of the Spanish Flu, while political leaders and their appointees opted to play down its severity, denying that the mounting number of hospitalizations and deaths were related to this new strain of Influenza and insisting that the disease was confined and would soon be eradicated. Hospitals across the country, perhaps overly confident that the “new” flu was just as treatable as the “old” flu, failed to assemble supplies and prepare for mass hospitalizations. President Wilson, fully engulfed in the war, offered no comment or words of reassurance. By the end of the war, he, too, would be infected.

On October 4, 1918, as treatment areas in the local hospitals began to swell with fever-drenched Spanish Flu sufferers, The Long Islander pleaded with readers in the Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor, Woodbury, and Syosset areas to help the local Red Cross obtain critically needed facial masks, sheets, and towels, which caregivers were quickly depleting. Readers were also urged to avoid crowded meeting places and to “live in the open” as much as possible.

By mid-October, with scores of students sick and many prominent residents falling ill or dying, the Syosset and Woodbury schools dismissed their students for an initial period of two weeks. This came as a welcomed development for local farmers, who seized the opportunity to replace workers who had been drafted into the army with children who were on an unexpected school holiday. Shortly afterward, the local newspapers warned parents that “In these strenuous times, as the school authorities have done their duty in closing the schools for the benefit of the health of our children, it is up to the parents to do their share by keeping their children off the public streets!”

Other institutions and organizations were slow to follow the schools’ lead. Without instantaneous news reporting and social media, the “country folk” of Syosset-Woodbury had no way of knowing that, in October of 1918 alone, nearly 195,000 of their fellow Americans had been wiped out by the flu. The Community Church of Syosset and the Woodbury Methodist Church, both centers of social activity, finally closed their doors on November 1, the same day Town of Oyster Bay officials issued orders prohibiting children under the age of sixteen from attending “any theater, moving picture show, or other place of public entertainment.” For the time being, the large majority of community gatherings in Syosset and Woodbury came to a screeching halt.

The news, however, must not have reached the Syosset Fire Company, which, during the peak of the local pandemic, held a benefit dance in its Muttontown Road firehouse. Within a week or two, several company members, including Henry Lang (owner of a busy hotel and saloon at the triangle of Jackson Avenue and Cold Spring Road), Gus Kleiss (Syosset’s blacksmith), and Albert Bayles (the company’s founder), were diagnosed with the flu. Other prominent Syosset residents, including Floyd Jarvis (ticket agent at the Syosset railroad station) and members of the Underhill and Mann families, also took to their beds. Given their daily social interaction through business activities alone, these individuals may have been inadvertently responsible for many new infections that quickly spread throughout the community.

The War Comes To A Close

The end of World War I in Europe on November 11, 1918 certainly deserved a celebration, and local residents could not resist. Syosset and Woodbury’s schools and churches re-opened their doors and, on November 15, a large crowd gathered in downtown Syosset for a victory parade, after which participants lit a huge bonfire, burned a rag doll of German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and joined hands to sing the National Anthem. One week later, scores of parade attendees and other residents fell ill with Influenza. The residents of Syosset and Woodbury, apparently, just weren’t “getting it” (although lots of them were, in fact, GETTING it).

Sadly, this story trudges on for at least another year, with brief glimpses of hope quashed time and again by fresh outbreaks that occurred each time infected soldiers returned from the warfront or children inadvertently brought the bug back to the classroom. In January of 1919, the Syosset School took a proactive step to prevent additional outbreaks by replacing the unhygienic compost-style depository in its outhouse (essentially a hole in the ground that collected students’ bodily waste) with what officials touted as a “sanitary toilet,” a precursor to the flush toilets of today. The new plumbing’s effectiveness is unknown; however, we do know that the Influenza nightmare continued for the people of Syosset and Woodbury.

By the time the pandemic finally subsided in late 1919, the “Spanish Flu” had killed at least fifty million people worldwide and half a million in the United States alone. While the actual number of mortalities in the Syosset-Woodbury area is unknown, local news articles from 1918 and 1919 document a staggering number of deaths and long-term illnesses right within this small area. The Influenza pandemic also caused an increase in other serious respiratory ailments including tuberculosis, which afflicted many Syosset-Woodbury residents for years to come.

The Bright Side…And A Warning

Somehow, Syosset and Woodbury – along with the rest of the nation – emerged from the 1918-1919 pandemic to enjoy a decade of unprecedented wealth and happy times. Farmers got back to business, shopkeepers welcomed their returning customers, schoolchildren once again frolicked on the playground, and neighbors embraced each other at Sunday church services. To paraphrase a popular 1920’s song, Happy Days Were Here Again!

Yet, this very dark chapter of Syosset-Woodbury history illustrates what can happen when people become complacent in their attitudes and behavior or place too much faith in their leaders to make tragedies go away. Scientists and epidemiologists across the board agree that citizens and government share equal blame for failing to act quickly and responsibly when the 1918 flu first appeared, a misstep that may have caused the deaths of numerous grandparents, great grandparents, or other relatives, who, if they were alive today, would probably be nagging you (in authentic 1918 lingo) to “get your keister inside, wash your hands, and stop being a bonehead!”

Trust them.

Tom Montalbano is a lifelong resident of Syosset and author of four books about the community. His latest release, An Early History Of Woodbury, is available at, The Book Revue of Huntington, and the Woodbury Country Deli.

This article appeared on Syosset Patch

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services

Don’t forget the census!

We are all consumed by the news and worry over Covid-19. But don’t forget to fill out and submit your census form. Mine appeared in the mailbox last week. It was a quick, simple process to answer the questions online.

We knew it would come in the mail and be answered online. But that wasn’t the case in Alaska where the first person was counted . Yup’ik tribal elder, Lizzie Chimiugak Nenguryarr, 90, was the first person counted. It is traditional for census takers to use sled dogs and snowshoes to visit the remote villages of Alaska when the ground is still frozen. This year’s first visit was to the fishing village of Toksook Bay (population 590 in 2010 ).

Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution mandates that the country conduct the Census every 10 years. This year will be the 24th time the country has counted its people. Of course, there have been some changes! The first census in 1790 counted only the population of 13 states and the districts of Maine, Kentucky and Vermont and the Southwest Territory; this year it covers all 50 states and 5 U.S. territories. This is the first year answers can be submitted online. In the first census about 650 marshals and assistants traveled by horseback and used parchment and animal skins! How does the 2020 Census compare to the 1790 count?

Be sure to submit your information. It’s important because funding for schools and hospitals and other local needs will be based on the census numbers. The Census will also determine the number for each state’s seats in the House of Representatives and will be used to draw up congressional and state legislative district lines.

It doesn’t take long.

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

It’s a Perfect Time to Garden

Gardeners are optimists! Just think, they put a tiny seed in the ground and expect it to grow.

Gardeners are patient! That tiny seed might take a week or more before it sends up a reassuring green sprout and then a couple of months before is produces a crop or flower.

So, in these trying times perhaps thinking about gardening is a good idea. Now’s the time to plan.

When it warms up and the nurseries reopen, it will be time to purchase annuals. I love my perennials, but I always fill in the garden with colorful annuals. Check out the heights and color before you buy.

I love to do container gardening. I move the containers around all summer to cover up bare spots between flowering perennials. That means I always have color! This is a good time to look at the pots you have, discarding the damaged ones, cleaning the others so you are ready to fill them when it gets warmer. If you need some helpful hints, Check out Cornell Cooperative Extension’s factsheet. The Nassau County and Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension sites offer a wealth of information for Long Island gardeners.

Do you want to get the kids involved? While we are stuck inside, help them paint rocks to use to decorate the garden. Start easy-to-grow seeds inside: Lettuce or basil germinate quickly. You can even use recycled containers like egg cartons and yogurt containers (a good introduction to Earth Day which we will celebrate in April).

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If you need something to boost your mood, try visiting some online gardens like the New York Botanical Garden and take a walk on the first day of spring  or take the time lapse walk along the Cherry Esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The very peaceful “A Day at the Garden” offers a look behind the scenes at the Portland (Oregon) Japanese Garden. You can also see the Strolling Pond Garden  and several other special places.

Researching these garden sites and finding each with the notation that the Gardens are currently closed to the public, is a reminder that we are all in this together. But enjoy the information we have online! And think like a gardener: be patient, be optimistic.

-Posted by Brenda, Reference Services

Museum visits from home!

Okay, so the museums are closed but if you love them, take a look at some of their online exhibitions.

The Museum of the City of New York is one of the least appreciated in the city, but its collections are impressive. Do you remember the 1939 World’s fair? If you were there or just heard about it, you can explore some the museum’s artifacts.

Do you enjoy a bit of Broadway? While the Great White Way remains dark, there are many digitized images available.

And the museum is offering videos at #MuseumFromHome highlighting some exhibitions, programs and original series.

You can visit the Frick! Take the virtual tour on the museum’s website.   And spend an enjoyable hour or more listening  to talks about the collection and special exhibitions.

Are you feeling cooped up and is Spring calling you? The New York Botanical Garden has recorded gardening lectures.  And you can sample the Garden’s wonderful plant collection by clicking through the photos online. 

Spring will come. This halt to our lives will end and the Syosset Library will look forward to loaning you our passes to the wonderful world of museums!

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

New in DVD

Queen and Slim

Drama R

While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man and a black woman are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, when the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly becomes a symbol of trauma.

Dark Waters

Drama R

Inspired by a shocking true story, a tenacious attorney uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths due to one of the world’s largest corporations. In the process, he risks everything, his future, his family, and his own life, to expose the truth.

Knives Out

Comedy PG-13

A tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie and a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.


Drama PG-13

Unfolding over the course of a late summer’s day in the fabled resort town of Sintra, Portugal, this film follows three generations who have gathered for a vacation organized by the family matriarch. In this fairy tale setting, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers, stirred by their romantic impulses, discover the cracks between them, as well as the unexpected depth of feeling.

-posted by Ralph, Media Services

What We’re Reading Now

We’re checking in with our staff today to see what they’re reading:

Pam M., Assistant Library Director:

“I am reading The Button Man by Andrew Gross, part historical fiction, part crime drama, very enjoyable!”

A disadvantaged but once happy Jewish immigrant family is brought together by the women’s garment trade and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in 1930s New York City.


Pam S., Reference/Teen Services Librarian:

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

A 12-year-old lone survivor of a plane crash investigates the stories of his less-fortunate fellow passengers before making a profound discovery about his life purpose in the face of transcendent losses.


Evelyn, Readers’ Services Librarian:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery, and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.


Sonia, Health Reference Librarian:

“I am reading Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear for a Cozy Mystery postal book club I belong to. Pretty good so far!”

In her first case, private detective Maisie Dobbs must investigate the reappearance of a dead man who turns up at a cooperative farm called the Retreat that caters to men who are recovering their health after World War I.


Betty , SPL Graphic Artist:
“Just finished reading Into the Raging Sea by Rachel Slade (okay, in my case, it was an SPL Kindle e-book) is this century’s semi-replication of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm.    On October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joachim blasted into the Bermuda Triangle, opened its all-devouring mouth and swallowed the US-flagged container shop El Faro whole and without mercy.   The circumstances and why it happened make this book difficult to put down.”
Recounts the sinking of El Faro, a container ship that was swallowed by Hurricane Joaquin in the Bermuda Triangle, examining America’s merchant marine fleet and revealing the truth about modern shipping.
Jackie, Head of Readers’ Services:
“I am reading the 2020 Long Island Reads Selection Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler.”
Decades after her grieving father, a laid-off NASA scientist, triggers chaotic changes in his pursuit of life-extending technology, an astronaut confronts dangerous family secrets to stop a world-threatening crisis.
All summaries from the publishers.

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services