Great Neck Library bids farewell to Sontag, hello to Mahgerefteh

Great Neck Library bids farewell to Sontag, hello to Mahgerefteh
New Trustee Chayim Mahgerefteh fist bumps Trustee Barry Smith after winning to coin toss to be appointed as the board's treasurer Tuesday night. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Great Neck Library said goodbye to Trustee Scott Sontag after four years of service Tuesday night and welcomed a new trustee to the table, Chayim Mahgerefteh.

“Scott has supported this community and this library,” Library Director Denise Corcoran said. “He brings good ideas, he brings good energy, he has brought dedication throughout the many years that he has been here, he has found creative solutions to any obstacles we have to new initiatives.”

Corcoran said that while Sontag will no longer be on the board, she is hopeful that he will still be active with the library.

Sontag and Mahgerefteh faced off in the library’s October election, with the incumbent losing to his challenger by more than 750 votes.

Amidst the goodbyes were appreciation for Sontag’s work for the library, gifts and a certificate of excellence to the outgoing trustee.

Among the praise imparted on Sontag included his efforts to establish the Library of Things, fostering the library’s relationship with SEPTA, a local organization for children with learning differences, and growing the library’s STEM lab.

“I’ve always been so appreciative of Scott’s participation in a wide range of activities that the library offers,” Trustee Kathleen Gold said. “He’s always been the biggest fan of our library. He’s always brought so much creative energy to the board meetings.”

Board President Rory Lancman said that while the two have had “many, many debates and discussions,” he always valued what he called Sontag’s “real world perspective” that he brought to the library.

On his way out, Sontag thanked the library and the community.

With Mahgerefteh joining the board in the new year, the library elected its new officers with changes in the appointments.

While Lancman will remain as the board’s president, Gold will take over as vice president – a post formerly held by Sontag.

The nomination for the board’s treasurer was split between Trustee Liman Human, who had held the position alone, with Mahgerefteh.

With an even split of the board, with Trustee Barry Smith and Lancman backing Mahgerefteh and Gold and Trustee Josephine Mairzadeh backing Hu, the choice for treasurer was settled by a coin toss.

Mahgerefteh, who picked tails, won the coin toss and was appointed as the board’s treasurer.

Hu will now serve as the board’s first assistant treasurer alongside Mairzadeh.

Smith maintained his position as the board’s secretary.

“Hopefully this will be a productive year at the library,” Lancman said.

The library also provided its annual report to the community, which reported that more than 3,000 new library cards were issued in 2023, amounting to 35,325 in total.

Other notable reports included a total of 365,275 materials in the library’s materials, 4,057 programs that garnered more than 50,000 attendees and the accomplishment of many of the library’s goals and advancements of projects.

Hu reported as the board’s treasurer that the 2023 fiscal year ended with a net operating overage of $74,416 and the audit report revealed zero findings for the sixth year in a row. She said the library’s finances “remain on solid footing.”

In other news, the Parkville Branch’s renovations will be continuing as it faces an unforeseen project in reinforcing the building’s floor.

The branch building, which is converted from an old school, was said to need additional renovations to reinforce the floor which could not support the weight of the library’s books. If not reinforced, the building’s floor would be at risk of caving in under the weight of the books.

The board’s council said that this issue was not discovered until construction had already begun.

Corcoran said the structural engineer has assessed the building and is conducting drawings to go forward in reinforcing the floors, with the board approving the proposal and the project’s change order for the renovations.

Smith asked for the total cost for the renovations with the proposal and change order, which was not able to be provided at the meeting.

Business manager Steven Kashkin said he would provide it at the next meeting.

The board meeting ended by going into executive session where they said they would discuss the vacancy on the board left by Donald Panetta – who quit during the board’s October meeting.

No statements were made by the board when they left the executive session.

The Great Neck Library Board of Trustees will convene again on Jan. 18.

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