Newly elected Great Neck Library Board President Rory Lancman spent $93,000 during his campaign last fall, according to state election filings.
Lancman told Blank Slate Media Monday that the $93,000 he spent during the fall election was a worthwhile investment. An investment, he said, that resulted in his having the chance to enhance the library’s community engagement, programs and collaborative work with other local organizations, such as the school district.
“What better way to show that you care about your community than investing as much time, energy and resources as I was able to marshal and invest,” Lancman said. “I am proud of every dollar that we spent to defend freedom of speech and equality.”
Lancman was vocal on his opposition to banning books, including those with sexual and LGBTQ+ content, since launching his campaign last fall. The Great Neck community has been divided on matters such as those types of books and school district curriculum as of late.
Lancman encouraged members of the community who may not see eye-to-eye on his stance to engage in discussion and find ways to better the library system.
“If your only interest and care at the library is banning books and demonizing people who don’t look or think or worship the way you do, then that’s a very myopic view of a library’s role in our society,” he said. “Let’s agree to disagree on the things we disagree on and try to work to make the library better, where we can find some common ground.”
The library’s board of trustees has also been a point of controversy with dueling lawsuits being filed against and by various officials. The library spent roughly $185,000 in legal fees for both lawsuits, according to officials.
Lancman said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that he will be able to lead the board and have everyone’s first goal to be about improving the library system.
“My primary responsibility as the president of the board is to get everyone to work together and effectively to serve the library and its patrons,” he said. “One of the reasons I asked my fellow board members to give me the opportunity to be president is to try to get the board to work well together, focused exclusively on the library.”
Lancman was elected to serve as the next president of the Great Neck Library in early January.
He touted Great Neck’s diversity and laudedwhat the library’s potential is in terms of engaging the students, young adults and professionals in a variety of activities and programs. Hearing what community members want to see more of, including enhancing SAT prep for students and other large-scale ideas, is something Lancman and the board will be embracing going forward.
“In the next month, we’re going to be hopefully rolling out the construct of how people are going to be able to provide input, how the board and members of the public with expertise are going to be able to offer that expertise to the library and make sure that we are fulfilling this long-range plan,” Lancman said. “The library, internally, runs really well.”
The library, he said, is also a key aspect in aiding the school district by providing students with opportunities and resources to expand their knowledge.
“The library is an integral part of Great Neck’s educational system,” Lancman said. “One of the things that I said to people in all the doors that I knocked on was if you’re proud of Great Neck schools, and you should be, you need to make sure that the library is in sync with the schools and their mission.”
Having library officials meet with chamber of commerce members, business owners and representatives from other organizations could aid in communicating ideas and events to the public and be a point of guidance for when the library is conducting long-term plans.
“It’s very important that every institution or organization in greatness is connected to the library in some way,” he said. “Either through programming or through the library’s collection or through lending to the library of that institution’s expertise.”
Lancman, who served as a state assemblyman representing the 25th District and as a member of the New York City Council, moved to Great Neck from Queens in 2021 with his wife, Mojgan, the first Iranian-American to be elected as a state Supreme Court Judge.
Lancman was elected to the board in November following a contentious election featuring a lawsuit launched by a pair of challenging candidates, Jessica Hughes and Christina Rusu.
The counting of votes from the Halloween election was challenged by Hughes and Rusu, who also filed a legal complaint against the library and their opponents, Lancman and Trustee Liman Mimi Hu.
The challenges made by Hughes and Rusu included ballots that had non-original signatures or no signature at all, incorrect dates and were handwritten or lacking time stamps, according to court documents.
Lancman defeated Rusu 1,683-1,626.