Spotlighting Rockland County Libraries in honor of National Library Week: Nanuet Public Library’s Teen Librarian on community and building relationships

Sam Sambrato, the teen librarian at Nanuet Public Library, said that her favorite childhood book that got her into reading was Ludwig Bemelmans’s “Madeline.”

“When I was young, my mom was very big on reading aloud to her children. My sister’s much older than me and one day I was like, ‘Well I can read,’” she said.

“To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, ‘Pooh-pooh,’” Little Sambrato babbled.

Her mother and sister watched her and were puzzled.

“When did the baby learn to read? Oh my goodness!” they said.

When they looked, it was the right words, but the wrong page.

Baby Sambrato memorized the book.

She didn’t always know that she wanted to work for a library.

With a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook and fresh out college, the possibilities were endless for the new graduate.

Sambrato was very drawn to non-profit organizations.

She started as a care coordinator in Westchester, where she assisted people suffering from mental health issues and homelessness by helping them connect with social services.

She didn’t see social work as her long-term career, but she liked the idea of helping people.

She also worked for a couple of years for the firefighters union in New York City in the benefits office, but a lot of the interactions were via phone.

A people-person, Sambrato wanted a job where she was not only making a difference in people’s lives, but one where there was more in-person interaction.

She was hanging out with her friend from college who majored in library sciences when she asked her what librarians do besides put away books.

“Librarians are keepers of the knowledge. Our job is just to make sure that everybody, —no matter if you’re young or old, have money or if you don’t— no matter what your status is, everyone should have access to equal information,” her friend said. “Libraries are also evolving into a community center and it’s a lot of program-based working with people day-to-day.”

That’s exactly what Sambrato was looking for.

She decided to enroll in Queens College and graduated one year early from the three-year program.

To get her foot in the door, she started as a part time assistant in 2018 before taking over the Teen Services Department in 2020, and she loves it.

What she admires most about the library field is that there’s always something for everyone.

“Whatever you’re into, you can kind of find your niche,” she said. “My boss is into music and we are starting a musical instruments collection that patrons can borrow, so that’s something that he really enjoyed working on.”

Bob Boyle, the head of adult services, worked with Rockland Music Center to decide which instruments were best to select.

The next Meet the Musical Instrument Collection day, where patrons can learn more about the upcoming launch is scheduled for May 5 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sambrato also gave a sneak peek of other upcoming summer programs.

In May, she is having a cake decorating class and there will also be a leadership for tween girls program in grades 5 to 8.

What she likes about working as a teen librarian is building relationships with the teens that come in.

“One of my favorite things about working with that group is when the kids warm up to me,” she said. ”I feel like I’m just kind of the trusted adult that isn’t a teacher that isn’t a parent.”

Sambrato shared that she’s been in situations where kids converse with her for about half an hour and to her, it seemed like they “just needed to get out whatever was trapped in their brains.”

One popular program during the school year on Thursdays is Teen Game Day, where Sambrato pulls out board games, Nintendo Switch and popcorn.

“I feel like I have days where I get to be goofy and I get to be fun,” she said. “It’s just in a way that I think if I was working with adults, I wouldn’t get to do.”

Generally held on the first Tuesdays of the month is Alphabet Soup, an LGBTQ+ club for those in grades 7 to 12.

“We usually do a craft and everybody is welcome,” she said. “It’s really about just making a safe space for everybody to go to, whether you identify with the community or not.”

Sambrato also touched on the book ban situation happening across the United States.

The books that are targeted tend to center on communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

“I can’t say I’ve never had a parent be like, ‘Hey, my kid took this book home. Can you not recommend something like this ever again?’” she said. “It’s not my job to tell somebody what they can and can’t take out. That’s like a boundary that a parent needs to set with their child from my perspective.”

For those interested in learning more about what the Nanuet Public Library offers, including free museum passes and how to check out technology, such as chromebooks, eBooks and audiobooks, can visit their website.

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