Yonkers Public Library’s Tara Somersall Named 2024 Library Journal Mover & Shaker

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Tara Somersall’s creativity serving children of all ages has made Yonkers Public Library a community leader in meeting kids’ needs and preparing them for a lifetime of reading.

Over the past 22 years, Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers awards have offered a compelling snapshot of what’s up and coming in the library world, as well as how it has changed. Their 2024 Movers cohort represents a range of innovative, proactive, and supportive work; they are imaginative and kind and brave in a world that needs those qualities—and the results they produce—very much.

Library Journal (LJ) has revealed the winners of the 2024 Movers & Shakers awards, celebrating a dynamic group of Advocates, Community Builders, Change Agents, Innovators, Educators, and Ban Battlers representing diverse realms within the library profession.

Tara Somersall received this prestigious national award in the Innovator category for her work in early literacy while she was head of youth services at the Riverfront Library. During her tenure, she helped develop a comprehensive outreach program to local daycares, worked with local hospitals to connect new parents and babies with reading resources, and assisted in renovating The Cove and Sensory Room. In late 2023, she was promoted to Branch Administrator of the Grinton I. Will Library.

She is one of only 40 Movers & Shakers this year, and joins an esteemed group of over 1,000 librarian professionals across the nation and world that have been inducted over the last 22 years.

Tara Somersall’s creativity serving children of all ages has made Yonkers Public Library (YPL) a community leader in meeting kids’ needs and preparing them for a lifetime of reading.

Putting the “early” in early readership, Somersall worked with doctors and clinicians at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center to launch the Born to Read program, which focuses on parents reading, singing, and bonding with their baby. Her favorite part of that? “The ‘prescription to read’ that doctors provide to new families to promote the library and early literacy,” she says.

Somersall has collaborated with the Family Services Society of Yonkers (FSSY) on workshops for parents and caregivers, covering topics including mental health, nutrition, and financial literacy. FSSY’s intergenerational mentorship program, Summer Reading Buddies—which Somersall worked to expand—has volunteers read with and to elementary students, mentoring them for six weeks to develop relationships and track progress. In 2023, YPL hosted 110 mentors and 397 students who read 1,822 books.

She also partners with local childcare organizations to provide library cards and run the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. “It seems so simple—bring story times to the daycare centers,” Somersall says, “but it really expanded our ability to serve more children and families.”

Somersall’s changes to the children’s department have been “transformational,” says YPL Deputy Director Shauna Porteus—not only helping redesign and open The Cove, a multipurpose indoor play and learning space for pre-K kids and their caregivers, as well as the county’s first Sensory Room, but also through her emphasis on hiring presenters and developing programs that are representative of the communities the library serves. “One mother told Tara that seeing someone that looks like her and her daughter meant the world to them,” says Porteus.

AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief and co-owner of Black Westchester, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Rap Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

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