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Sep 7, 2018 12:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Public Library To Revisit Decision To Limit Table Gaming Program

Four times a week, Hampton Bays seniors meet up at the Hampton Bays Public Library to play table games such as mahjong, bridge, and canasta. VALERIE GORDON
Sep 10, 2018 10:30 AM

On various days every week, 20 to 30 seniors gather at the Hampton Bays Public Library to play table games like mahjong, bridge and canasta. But, last month, the group received some devastating news: The library was cutting back the program, limiting the seniors’ activities to only two days per week.

Rather than being offered Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, Library Director Susan LaVista said that the program will be offered only on Thursdays and Sundays after October 31.

However, after the seniors collected more than 60 signatures on a petition, which was brought to Ms. LaVista’s attention at a recent Library Board meeting, the library’s department heads began revisiting the decision. Ms. LaVista said they may reinstate the program with slightly modified hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2 to 5 p.m.

Currently, seniors are permitted to use the lower-level program room on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“That’s four days and a lot of hours,” Ms. LaVista said. “They are clearly passionate about how important the library is to them.”

The library director explained that the intent behind cutting the hours was to make way for a larger variety of programs, specifically children’s programing. She said that the Ponquogue Avenue library only has three program rooms, the smallest of which is used to house children’s programing, such as story time and arts and crafts. Limiting gaming hours would allow for more kid-friendly programing, Ms. LaVista said, adding, “We are very crunched for space.”

Hamlet voters rejected two proposals—the first in 2016 and the second in 2017—to renovate and expand the library. The original $15.8 million plan called for the building to be replaced with a two-story library, whereas the second modified plan, which was estimated to cost $9.9 million, proposed finishing the existing library’s basement to include additional program space.

On Thursday afternoon, September 6, Hampton Bays resident Jeri Barr, who has been participating in the gaming program for roughly three years, said she was happy to hear of Ms. LaVista’s modified plan. “It’s good to hear they’re listening,” she said.

That was the general consensus on Thursday afternoon amid games of mahjong and canasta.

Mona Pincus, who has been an avid bridge and canasta player for nearly six years, shared Ms. Barr’s enthusiasm. She recalled the day when her fellow players were told of the library’s plans to cut the program, noting that many of them were close to tears.

“These women, they live to go here,” she said. “If they’re happy, I’m happy.”

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