The $25 million Half Hollow Hills community library features a surround-sound theater, podcast studio, 3D printer and state-of-the-art kitchen

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SOUTH HUNTINGTON, NY — Public libraries, closed for much of the COVID pandemic, are reinventing themselves to meet demand in a digital world.

On Long Island, the brand new, $25 million Half Hollow Hills Community Library has just opened in South Huntington. As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported on Monday, new creative deals could also be coming to your neighborhood.

What does a surround sound movie theater do in a library? And a state-of-the-art kitchen?

“Our librarians are going to teach the kids how to make soup or a salad or how to roast a chicken,” said Helen Crosson, director of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library.

The community had their wish list for the new Half Hollow library and the result is a model for the library of the future.

Catalogs of old maps are filled with free vegetable seeds.

“We’ve come a long way with microfiche,” said Chris Sarubbi, network and systems technician. “We are fully covered in Wi-Fi so a customer can at 6am, 2am there is fully accessible Wi-Fi throughout the parking lot.”

“A 21st century library is a community space, a place where people can gather, learn, exchange ideas, attend concerts,” Crosson said.

There’s padded flooring for soundproof fitness classes, technology for community gatherings, and a creative space with engravers and 3D printers.

“We’re actually printing a 3D model of a Pokemon for a local kid,” said librarian Anthony Giasante. “We also print bones for a local doctor. He uses it to teach in medical school… A modern library really functions as a place to explore their curiosities while we engage with them and educate them .”

“We are going to come a lot more often,” said Veronica Remy.

“The library isn’t just for books anymore. The library is for whatever interests you,” said Maria Baecher of Melville.

Everything is sustainable; cork flooring, geocooling and even the asphalt in the car park were reused.

It’s not just books and newspapers you can borrow for free anymore. The library now has fully loaded streaming sticks that you can take home to watch hours of free programming.

But none of this is free. Funded by taxpayers, the demand for e-books has doubled in the last five years alone.

“We are seeing people coming back to libraries in droves, seeing young people using it as a social space after school,” said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. “The challenge is to balance those needs.”

Verbesey said every community library is working to keep up with demand, which the pandemic has dramatically accelerated.

The library also offers test prep and professional coaching, homework help, and a podcast studio. Non-residents are also welcome.

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