Ossining Public Library 10 Years Later!

March 25, 2017 will mark the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the “new” Ossining Public Library. On that first day, the library had 1,000 visitors who lined up along Croton Avenue anxiously awaiting the opening of the doors.  Guided tours were given throughout the day, the community received library cards and people enjoyed the celebration of the dedication of the 200-seat theater to the talented pianist, and Ossining resident, Camille Antoinette Budarz. With a maximum seating capacity of 205 and standing room for 250, The Camille Budarz Theater holds many programs and events throughout the year including monthly concerts, theater productions, dramatic readings, workshops, film screenings, and many recitals – you name it, the library has it.  The Ossining Public Library is also lucky to have a Steinway Grand piano that was once owned by Camille Budarz herself.  Performers in our Words & Music Concert Series, from Livingston Taylor and Willie Nile to Jimmy Webb and Art Garfunkel, have all raved about playing such an amazing instrument.

The John Cheever Reading Room was also dedicated on the library’s first day. Named for the local iconic author John Cheever (who is known for his literary works Falconer, The Wapshot Chronicle, and Bullet Park, as well as the films The Swimmer, The Sorrows of Gin, The Five Forty-Eight), the Reading Room is fully equipped with a double-sided fireplace as well as current periodicals, newspapers, magazines and new books.  Patrons enjoy the warmth of the fireplace in the winter months and reading on the window seat all year long.

The Ossining Public Library is a modern 44,000-square-foot building made of glass, metal and brick.  The “new” building was built with the community in mind: bigger and more open spaces for a growing village and town.  Combining the new and the old, the window seat is reminiscent of the original Carnegie Library window seats, and the lamps that adorn the second floor tables mimic the famous New York Public Library.  There is something to enjoy on all four floors of this modern-day library.  When a patron enters on the lower level, they are greeted by a café area, an art gallery and a theater.  Climb the stairs to the first floor and you are welcomed by the Circulation Desk, media section, multi-cultural collection and Children’s Room.  The second floor houses the Reference Department, Teen Room, and the non-fiction collection, as well as awe-inspiring views of the Hudson River.  Finally, the mezzanine level has the fiction collection and more impressive views.  Many local authors come to the Ossining Library and draw inspiration from, not only our expansive collections, but also the incredible setting.

The Children’s Room staff is hard at work every day creating programs like Mother Goose, Shake Baby Rattle and Roll, Family Fun Night, Food Fest, and most recently, their Election Day Extravaganza.  The Teen Room, too, works to provide programming each day creating events such as Teen Yoga, baking programs like Pancakes vs. Waffles, National Button Day craft, Letters to Veterans for Veterans Day and many more.  The staff has created an inviting fun atmosphere for both teens and kids.  These spaces fill up each day after school with kids who want to be here at the library, learning and having fun at the same time.

The Ossining Public Library began with a small collection of 700 books housed in Park School in the 1880’s.  In 1893 it was known as the Sing Sing Public Library; it changed its name in 1901 to the Ossining Public Library.  In 1903, the library moved to the Twiggar Building on Main Street, and then a few years later moved to the YWCA.  Looking to expand, a letter was written to Andrew Carnegie, and that was when one of the original Carnegie libraries was built on Croton Avenue in Ossining.  A beautiful stately brick building with arched windows and large heavy wooden doors at the entrance, a permanent library building was finally available for the people of Ossining.  By the 1960’s, the library was looking to expand again as it was growing even more.  Instead of adding onto the Carnegie building, it was torn down and a new library structure opened in September of 1968.  This building was a modern square with a flat roof.  That library’s community room was also the theater and art gallery.  Very often for large concerts, staff would clear out the main floor and put down rows of chairs.  People would be standing in the stacks to hear great jazz music or enjoy classical tunes.  Not an ideal space for a growing population!  By 2003, the Ossining community voted overwhelmingly to pass a bond and build a brand new, much larger building that would be more conducive to the changing world around us.  The property adjacent to the library was purchased and the old, 1960’s building was torn down to make way for a larger parking lot, and the final new building opened in 2007.  The new building was constructed with future expansion in mind, if the community should ever need it, and the rest is history.

The Ossining Public Library is a school district library and a proud partner with the Ossining School District.

The Ossining Public Library has won many awards over the years including: Best Library in Westchester from Westchester Magazine in 2009 and 2016; Best Teen Room from Westchester Magazine in 2013; and it is LEED Certified from the U.S. Green Building Council.  I am sure there will be many more awards to come in the future.

The large art gallery on the lower level has monthly art exhibits including specific shows for African American Heritage Month in February, the Ossining Girl Scouts Annual Exhibit in March, the Ossining School District Annual Exhibit in May and the Ossining Arts Council Annual Exhibit in June.  There is a Main Gallery and an expanded area of the gallery which is called the Hallway Gallery.  Sometimes the gallery sees two to three shows in a given month.  From local artists to artists from other areas, the library is happy to bring exceptional artwork to the Ossining community all year long.

The Ossining community has a large Hispanic population which is growing every day.  The library historically has always reflected the ever-changing population and the demands of the world around us.  The library offers assistance in many ways including, but not limited to: an English Conversation Group every Wednesday; English as a Second Language (through Westchester Community College) two days a week; a Spanish Film Series; a multi-cultural collection; and many performances and celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month.  In turn, the community has expressed interest in learning Spanish, and the library has listened and responded with offerings of a Spanish Conversation Group every Wednesday and a Beginner Spanish Class every Friday.

The Ossining Public Library encompasses the idea of a library in the future, not only by its modern architecture but also in its role in the community.  In my opinion, libraries are not going anywhere anytime soon, even with the internet; they are a part of the fabric of American history.  There is still a need for human interaction, and also to have a space, other than home, to study quietly.  With more and more libraries expanding to meet the demands of a growing population, libraries now, more than ever, have a major role to play.  Within the Ossining community the library is one of the only places in town that has a café and art gallery, as well as the only real theater space.  The word has gotten out about the library’s space and is why it is in such high demand for use from all over the County.  In the spring, the library will embark on a new initiative to get people thinking about the library in a different way, re-imagining the library within the community.  The library will have “information” tables strategically placed in high-traffic areas out in the Ossining community, in hopes of signing up more people for library cards, educating the public about library services, and reaching those who don’t already use the library on a regular basis.

Within the walls of this beacon of light perched on top of the hill, are not only books, CDs, DVDs and computers, but also, learning tools for all walks of life from all ages and generations just as Andrew Carnegie’s legacy had intended it to be.

Director, Karen LaRocca-Fels said, “As the Ossining Public Library approaches its 125th anniversary as an institution in 2018, we are reminded not only of the importance of the library to its community in the past, but of its vibrancy and relevancy today.  The future of libraries, and the Ossining Public Library in particular, is ever changing.  But the library’s role in serving the Ossining community –  and the support of the Ossining community for its library –  is a constant.”

For more information on the Ossining Public Library visit www.ossininglibrary.org and be sure to visit us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest).

The author is the programming and public events coordinator at the Library.

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