When word spread that the Mount Vernon Public Library could lose its status as the central library of Westchester, the community came out in full force in support of the MVPL, March 29th. 50 or so elected officials, community stakeholders and residents heard the rallying cry to stop the Westchester Library Systems (570 Taxter Rd #400, Elmsford) from voting to strip the MVPL of Central Library status responded.
After hearing from everyone who spoke, the board decided they may need to take another look at the situation before making their decision. So instead of the vote being the number one item on the agenda, they shelved the vote and instead voted for a sub-committee to look further into it, before voting.
Thursday night the Westchester Library Systems Central Library Study Committee held a meeting in the Mount Vernon Public Library’s Grace Greene Baker Community Room. The purpose of the WLS Central Library Study Committee was to gather information about the role the MVPL plays in achieving the goals of the Central Library program. The committee said they were attempting to answer the overarching question: What should the Central Library be in order to best serve the WLS member libraries and their patrons?
If the WLS thought they saw something in March in Elmsford, they sure were not ready for the standing room only crowd they saw Thursday night. Those who could not fit in the room filled the hallways, listening and looking through the crowded doorway.The crowd made up of Northside & Southside residents, included the entire Mount Vernon City Council, Comptroller Maureen Walker, three County Legislators, Lyndon Williams, David J. Tubiolo and Ken Jenkins, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, Former Mayor Ernie Davis, Judge Nichelle Johnson, several City Council Candidates who came out to represent the MVPL after turning in the petitions earlier in the day, waiting to see if they’ve made the ballot, and too many other Mt. Vernon stakeholders and taxpayers to name them all.
While I can not possibly name everyone, the one thing was noticeable and pointed out to the study committee was the unity in the room from many who do not always play well together, often find themselves on opposite sides of political agendas and basically do not get along. Everyone checked their agenda, political party and anything else that often separates Mount Vernonites at the door. Everyone was there for one reason to represent the MVPL and fight for it to keep its Central Library Status.
“Today, I had the honor to stand side by side with brothers and sisters in the community tonight to fight to keep Mount Vernon Public Library Westchester County’s central library,” Tyrae Woodson-Samuels said after the meeting. “One of the proudest moments of my life. With the negative press and in-fighting that we as a city are sometimes overtaken by, it was truly special to see everyone on one accord, fighting in unity for one issue. I think Mount Vernon took a step forward in the right direction tonight! Our library and its status as the county’s central location is too important to let it fall to the wayside.”
Each of the 40 or so speakers each passionately articulated their feelings about the library, some sharing stories and experiences, some sharing the history of the MVPL and others asking questions. But all wanting to know why the central library status was in danger of being revoked from the MVPL. The Study Committee had its hands full trying to enforce the two minutes speaking time allotted and just hit the timer when it went off and let the speaker finish his or her thoughts, several times. Many of the speakers cause the study committee to take notes. At the end the Chair of the Study Committee, Dave Donelson had to let everyone know, your voices have been heard in a major way.
“I’m proud of the advocacy by members of our community on why the Central Library designation should not be removed from the MVPL,” County Legislator Lyndon Williams said. “We made a compelling case. But, this is only the beginning. We must now develop a comprehensive written plan on how MVPL can lead as the Central Library in setting standards for local libraries in the system in new and innovative ways. We can accomplish this goal.”
While the residents came out in numbers for the second time for the MVPL, it’s not over, the MVPL still needs their support. The WLS Central Library Study Committee will meet again on Thursday, August 10th at 6:00 PM at WLS Headquarters (570 Taxer Road in Elmsford. The Study Committee will prepare a draft report of their recommendations to be presented to the WLS board on Thursday, September 14th meeting that will also be held at the WLS Headquarters. The Study Committee will then present to the full WLS Board their recommendations on Central Library Status, Tuesday, September 26th.