Coffee and…, Warner Library Expanding its Image

Change is afoot at the historic Warner Library as it launches a three-year $800,000 capital campaign to create a community center-like setting. One of the biggest changes, not set in stone at this point, is a possible café on the third floor, which overlooks the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge.

images"It would be nice to say, ‘let’s go have a cup of coffee,’" Library Director Kristin Weltzheimer said in a recent interview. Weltzheimer explained that residents could find any information lying in bed using a laptop computer — and so she envisions a gathering place as part of the library’s lure.

In addition to the capital objective, the Friends of Warner Library have already donated $8,000 for a high-tech teen center located along the south wall of the reference area, and is set to open by the end of this summer. "[Teens] love having a special place, a place for themselves," Young Adult Librarian Liz Siracusa said as she sat next to Weltzheimer. Siracusa said the center would act as an extension of school for teens ages 12-17. Plans for the teen center include a lounge area for reading, a group project space, three computer stations, shelving for the young adult collections, and walls for displaying art. The teen center and possible café are part of the larger picture recently developed by the Library’s Board of Trustees. "We have a vision of a library that is for the 21st century — it’s not just books anymore," Board President Carin Rubenstein said in a library release. "We need to bring the Library up to a modern standard of information gathering and dissemination." The campaign also includes renovating the entry lobby, the green room and the circulation desk as well as restoring parts of the ceiling and light fixtures to their original design when the Library was founded by local residents Worcester and Cornelia Warner in 1929.

All of this is in addition to the annual operating expenses paid for by the Villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, in a 60/40 ratio respectively. Between June 1, 2007 and May 31, 2008, Tarrytown will appropriate $804,945, according to Village Treasurer Jim Hart. During the same period, he said, Sleepy Hollow will pay $536,630. Hart said the 60/40 arrangement was based on population at the Library’s founding, and is something that will be renegotiated in the future.

But to get things moving for the $800,000 objective, the Library hired Jenifer Ross as Director of Development this past October. Her job is to create the necessary fund-raising networks and awareness in order to meet the Library’s goal. Ross also sat down with Weltzheimer and Siracusa to explain the changes taking place. In her discussion of a possible café, she described a small area on the third floor with rugs, tables, chairs, a sofa, newspapers and magazines, and an area where people can take a book or leave a book. "Perhaps musicians can play music there," she said. She also said there might be some concern about competition among the dining establishments in downtown Tarrytown, but said any fears were unfounded. She explained that the Library would go out to bid so that every merchant has an opportunity of setting up a satellite establishment inside the Library. In addition, she said, it would be something very basic like coffee and small pastries.

What to do with space in the rest of the library is up in the air at the moment. "With the teen area coming, that reference area will not be as quiet anymore," Ross said. So, that may be moved into the green room. She said the circulation desk would become more functional, but "far more elegant than what we have now." Instead of a 1970s design, it’ll look like a desk from the original era. Outside the Library, there will be more plantings and a plan for how to upkeep the landscaping.

Before the Library moves forward with a café, it would need approval by the Tarrytown Planning Board and the Westchester County Department of Health, according to Village Administrator Stephen McCabe. Also, Ross said that before a decision is made, they will hold several focus groups beginning in June to discuss the Library’s future. Over a series of sessions, they will meet with senior citizens, parents, singles, businesses and multi-ethnic residents, among others. "If there is a concern, we’ll hear it," Ross said.

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About the Author: Brett Freeman