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Scarsdale Library Chief: 'We Need to Stay Current'

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The Scarsdale Public Library is evolving, but no one is trying to reinvent the institution – nor does anyone want to.

That was the message Tuesday from Library Director Elizabeth Bermel while discussing the library's recently released five-year plan. The plan calls for providing users with more pleasant surroundings, better and more current technology and enhanced programming.

"This is a very successful library," Bermel said Tuesday. "People love it, and they are always saying really nice things about it. But we do need to stay current. We also have to stay true to our ideals. We have the same mission. That's why we asked the community for input."

In her remarks that accompanied the library's five-year plan, Library Board of Trustees President Barbara Josselsohn thanked her board and Bermel for their "refusal to ever settle for second-best; and the Scarsdale community, for sharing with us your dreams, ideas, and hopes."

Scarsdale, Bermel said, does not necessarily follow all the national trends and library usage is no exception. While in many areas residents need to be educated as to what the library offers and how to access those offerings, Scarsdale residents know the score, officials said. In many other places around the country, people go to the library to use the public computers for accessing the internet; in Scarsdale, she said, many people have their own electronic devices and downloadable programs.

"In Scarsdale, they expect a traditional library experience in addition to everything else," Bermel said. While many may have e-readers, they still enjoy printed books. "They want printed books. They want to be surrounded by printed books. They don't want that to go away."

She also explained that, while many locals possess the technology to do research, sometimes they need more and the library can provide it, along with the research expertise to help out. The library is also a major repository of Scarsdale's history, she said.

And then there's the children's programs. Bermel said children love books.

"They enjoy the tactile nature of printed books," she said. "Our children's collection is very, very popular. Twenty years from now, when they have kids, we'll see what happens."

The children's program of hands-on activities keeps expanding. The Lego program is hugely popular, Bermel said. Crafts sessions also draw a crowd.

Bermel said the library is talking about expanding offerings for seniors as well as for people with disabilities, starting with children. Films that are occasionally offered in the evening will likely be shown in the afternoon as well.

"We're looking to see who we haven't reached," Bermel said.

Adding a café is on the list, along with more outdoor seating. But she's not looking to duplicate the bookstore experience.

"We're just trying to do what people like," she said.

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