Now It’s a Family Fun Place

Jackie Bitonti, the Montauk children’s librarian, Denise DiPaolo, the director, and Joan Lycke, the president of the library’s board, are excited about the library’s new status as a Family Place library. Janis Hewitt

The Montauk Library has made changes that, once seen, should have the little ones begging to go there. The library has changed the whole children’s section, which is now called the Family Fun Room, opened it up, and added oodles of colorful new toys and books.

The restructuring is part of a plan that enables the library to become an official Family Place library, making it the only library on the East End to offer the free program, which integrates family play with educational toys, books, and other programs for children 12 to 36 months. If parents have an infant and can’t find a baby sitter, they will be welcome to bring the baby along.

Jackie Bitonti, the new children’s librarian, suggested the idea to Denise DiPaolo, the new library director, who thought it a good one. Funding for the two women to be trained and to purchase the materials came from the library’s board, the Friends of the Montauk Library, who didn’t blink an eye when asked for a donation, Ms. DiPaolo said, the East Hampton Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton, and a grant from the Middle Country Library Foundation.

The two women trained to be certified over five days in October at the Family Place Training Institute in Centereach. Ms. DiPaolo said the training made her wish she had had her children later in life so she could have used the tools she learned at the institute when raising them.

The Family Fun Room will be open during regular business hours, but the learn, play, and grow program will be held three times a year for five Saturdays in spring, fall, and winter in the lower level in the Suzanne Koch Gosman Community Room, which has been spruced up with new carpeting and has new chairs that can easily be wiped down. A large, slatted wooden mat will cover most of the carpeting when the program is going on, to allow large metal Tonka-type toys to be played with. It will then be rolled up for the adult programs.

Each session of the five-week program will cover a different subject, with a professional on hand for consultations. The subjects range from early literacy to child development, nutrition and music, health and play. The program encourages on-the-floor play interaction for the children and a parent or caregiver, and it can accommodate 12 to 15 children at a time. Registration at the library is required. The first session will take place on May 7 from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

“It was a huge undertaking that is so badly needed for Montauk kids,” Joan Lycke, the president of the library board, said.