Briarcliff Library Director Donna Pesce Turns the Page

Donna Pesce holds a book in the Briarcliff Manor Public Library’s Architecture and Home Design Collection, in memory of Alice Goldstein, on March 20, 2024. Photo by Robert Brum

Briarcliff Manor Public Library Director Donna Pesce is retiring, concluding a career that has taken her to positions in New York City and across Westchester County.  

Pesce, who lives in the City of Rye, became Briarcliff’s director in 2018, just as she was finishing a post-graduate certificate in library administration.

Maureen Petry will serve as interim director until the library’s Board of Trustees appoints a replacement. 

As Pesce’s April 12 approached, River Journal asked her to look back on her years serving patrons and the community.  

River Journal: Tell me a little about your career prior to arriving in Briarcliff. 

Donna Pesce: I volunteered at two libraries and offered a library program for years before doing career counseling through the library and going back to school to become a librarian. 

I began as a trainee at the New York Public Library when I was working on my master’s degree in library science, then was the head of teen services at the Chappaqua Library. 

River Journal: What were the main changes that have occurred during your time in this profession and here at Briarcliff since you began? 

Donna Pesce: When I started here, about 10% of our book budget was for ebooks and 90% for print books. For the last few years, it has been about 50-50. Last month, for the first time, more ebooks than print books were purchased.  

The other, more subtle change has been in programs. People love larger, more engaging, community-building programs, for example the flower show with the Garden Club, the Human Library, Poetry Cafes, history performances, movie nights, a bubble performance, a magic show.  

People want a place to learn and connect in a welcoming environment. It is also a great opportunity to work with wonderful community groups. 

River Journal: Library directors across the nation have found themselves in the middle of controversies involving pressure to remove materials deemed objectionable by some in the community. Has this occurred locally, and/or would you like to address this issue in general terms?  

Donna Pesce: None of the headline-making controversies have taken place here (so far?!?!). In general terms, I would love for people to know that libraries are here to provide equitable access to information to everyone. It is important for a democracy to have informed citizens. Librarians are trained to provide reliable information in a non-judgmental way.  

I worry when libraries are seen as outdated due to the internet or are not funded or supported by policies. Usage is steady and is growing for many of our offerings. Our users definitely describe the library as a “lifeline.” 

River Journal: Can you provide a short list of your own favorite books?  

Donna Pesce: At the moment, Heavenly Bodies at the Met, by Ellen Devlin and Contraband, by Juan Pablo Mobili. These poets featured at a recent poetry café and the poems really made me think. 

River Journal: Care to share anything about your retirement plans? 

Donna Pesce: I am working on a certificate in botanical illustration at the New York Botanical Garden. 

River Journal: Anything else you’d like to share?  

Donna Pesce: Just that this is a very special little library with so many assets – the gracious, knowledgeable staff, the dedicated volunteers, supportive library trustees, an active Friends group, enthusiastic community partners, a beautifully designed building and a lovingly developed collection that evolves to meet the community’s needs. And of course, our library patrons are wonderful. 


1 Comment

  1. Thanks you for your dedication and creative contributions to the Chappaqua and Briarcliff communities. Enjoy your classes. I look forward to attending your art shows!

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About the Author: Robert Brum