The Place to Be
Believe it or not, the Huntington High School library is increasingly becoming the "place to be" in the building as 400 students typically file in and out of the spacious facility on any given school day.
That kind of popularity warms the heart of veteran district librarian Patricia Dillon, who has worked hard to put her own stamp on the first floor library. Mrs. Dillon is heading into her second year at Huntington High School after spending the previous two decades on the elementary grade level.
The high school library contains more than 30,000 books and nearly 90 periodicals, along with two dozen computers and an assortment of other resources. Students come to the space for a variety of reasons. Some simply want to study while others keep busy working on their homework. Many students come to research topics for projects or papers. A devoted group regularly uses the computers located not far from the book stacks.
"We want the library to be a very comfortable place for students," Mrs. Dillon said. "It's a place where students do real work. That's its primary purpose. It's a place where students can gather and organize their thoughts, study with a group, finish up some work before a class or do extended work on a major project."
Mrs. Dillon came to the high school from Jack Abrams Intermediate School. She asked for a transfer upon the retirement of longtime high school librarian Camille DeCanio. The transfer request was submitted and approved long before the district decided to move classes out of Jack Abrams School in July 2010.
"I needed a new challenge and was excited about going to the high school," Mrs. Dillon said. "I'm still excited about working there." She will be the freshman class faculty advisor during the 2011/12 school year.
After earning a bachelor of arts in English at St. Bonaventure University, Mrs. Dillon attended Palmer Graduate Library School at Long Island University's C.W. Post College campus, obtaining a master's degree in library science. She worked as a graduate assistant in the C.W. Post library. Mrs. Dillon later earned a second master's degree at Stony Brook University, with a concentration in educational technology.
Earlier in her career, Mrs. Dillon was the librarian at Herricks High School for eight years. She left that position when she moved to Huntington to raise her three children. She was the founding librarian at the Woodhull Early Childhood Center, working there for four years before moving over to Huntington Elementary School, which was later renamed Huntington Intermediate School and still later Jack Abrams Intermediate School.
A four-term member of the South Huntington School Board, Mrs. Dillon was honored earlier this summer by the South Huntington Educational Foundation at that group's 14th annual golf outing and dinner. She has served on the organization's board of directors, filled a variety of PTA leadership positions and been a member of South Huntington's district audit committee. Mrs. Dillon is in the midst of a five-year term on the South Huntington Public Library's board of trustees and served as the group's president last year.
A highly visible librarian, Mrs. Dillon quickly became the "go to" person for Huntington High School students needing to locate resource materials or bounce around ideas. She doesn't hover over anyone, preferring to let students know she is nearby and ready, willing and able to help out in any way, large or small.
Where she gets her energy from no one knows for sure, but Mrs. Dillon is at work early in the morning and is on the go all day long. "I like to keep busy, which is a good thing since the kids keep you on your toes," she said. "I find the high school to be a really interesting place. There is so much going on. I love all the activity."
Many students use the library's computers to conduct research while others surf around. More than a few have been spotted logged onto the district's website. They like to read about school events and sports teams or glance at the photo galleries that regularly run on the site.
"Some students are attracted to the library because they want a quiet place to read," Mrs. Dillon said. "Almost everyone is respectful and adheres to the standards of behavior that are common in any library. It's not a hangout. It's a place where students can work in a very pleasant atmosphere."
The large area is bright and airy and free from clutter. The library hasn't been extensively renovated since it opened in November 1958. It was expanded into a courtyard area several decades ago, but largely retains its classic look. Mrs. Dillon hopes that one day a renovation will be considered. She has some ideas about what form such work should take.
On most summer days, Mrs. Dillon could be found in the library, organizing and straightening and planning for the new school year. "There's always something to do," she said. "Once the first students come through the door on the first day of school it will be as if we never left for vacation last June."
Retirement doesn't seem to be an attractive possibility just yet. "I'll be around a while longer," Mrs. Dillon laughed. "I guess I will be here for at least four more years now that I'm the freshman class advisor."