On Saturday, June 4, members of the Chappaqua community gathered in town to honor the beloved Chappaqua Library as it marked its 100 year anniversary. Library Director, Andrew Farber and Board President, Elizabeth Farkas Haymson began the Centennial Ceremony by welcoming the crowd and starting the celebration. “We have come from humble beginnings, but through the support of our local community, we have grown into the center of Chappaqua. Today we will honor the library’s achievements: where we started, and where we hope to find ourselves in the future,” said Andrew Farber.
Lisa Katz, Town Supervisor, then gave a proclamation, acknowledging the library as “a pillarstone of our community” and appreciating all that it offers. She shared the substantial impact that the library had on her own children’s love for reading and learning.
Town historian Gray Williams shared a brief history of the library and the people who were particularly important in founding it in 1922 (a more in depth history of the library was later on display). While hearing about and celebrating the past of the library, it became clear that values such as education and making contributions to better the community have remained at the core of the library’s, and all of Chappaqua’s, foundation.
The next guest speaker was David Vinjumari, author, NYU Professor, and Library Space Planner, who spoke about the importance of libraries. He classified the importance of libraries not only as a means of accessing books and information, but even as a matter of life or death. While this may seem like an exaggeration, it was actually proven by one of Vinjumari’s colleagues at NYU, Eric Klinenberg, as he studied a heat wave that swept through Chicago in 1995. More specifically, he studied why different neighborhoods that looked identical to each other in terms of race, income, and living conditions had drastically different death rates. Why did many fewer people, specifically the elderly, die in some neighborhoods compared to others? What he found was that the neighborhoods with lower death rates were the ones with more public institutions such as parks and community and senior centers, but most importantly, libraries. Public libraries were what helped keep people alive in times of extreme distress and “social connection was actually the difference between people living and dying,” shared Vinjumari.
“During the pandemic especially, I think we as a community were also able to realize our need for togetherness and connection that we were robbed of for so long, creating only a deeper appreciation for public libraries. While a library is definitely about lending books, promoting reading, and helping people access information, it is also so much more. It holds the power to connect, making sure nobody in a community feels like they are alone.”
Vinjumari continued by noting the role that The Chappaqua Library plays in making sure all people feel welcomed and supported, specifically those that are either underserved or less able to take care of themselves than most of the fortunate citizens in Chappaqua. There are programs that help adults with disabilities, programs intended to appreciate different cultures, programs that deliver books to those unable to leave their houses, and so many more that are vital to our community.
Bell Middle School Student Violet Clinton spoke about the impact that The Chappaqua Library has had on her young life. “I want to thank the children’s librarians for helping make the library a special place for me and for all the kids growing up here. The Chappaqua Library helped begin my love of reading and I will cherish it for a lifetime,” she shared.
A TIME CAPSULE and A RED MAPLE TREE
The ceremony came to a close with the burying of a time capsule in the courtyard and a tree dedication. “The new tree will mark time moving forward, and in a short while we will bury a time capsule that will preserve the past,” said Elizabeth Farkas Haymson. The time capsule consisted of meaningful things from the library’s past for future generations to hopefully discover some day. Its contents included, but were not limited to, a history of the library, photos of the library from both the past and present, the first Chappaqua Library’s Writer’s Contest, library cards from 1987 to today, homemade COVID masks, a letter written by Bill Clinton appreciating all that the library provides, several Inside Chappaqua magazine articles regarding the library, including a cover article on the future of libraries by past Library Board President Ronni Diamondstein, and more.
Next, the tree dedication took place, signifying time moving forward. The Town of New Castle donated the Red Maple Tree that was dedicated as a symbol of growth and endurance for the library for the next 100 years. The Library’s Centennial Ceremony was a great way to celebrate the past, and give hope for the future of the library.