ASSOCIATES (2010, November, v. 17, no. 2)


Two Libraries – Two Communities

Helen Chuckrow

I have worked at the Ossining Public Library and the North Castle Public Library in my years as a Circulation Clerk. Working with the public is an exciting experience, especially when the two libraries are as different in their “home” population as are Ossining and North Castle!

Ossining, New York, is a very diverse community with a large immigrant population. A child might come in with his or her parent, aunt, or cousin and act as interpreter for the adult, who usually wants to get a library card. Sometimes, the only piece of identification the prospective patron has is a passport. “He only came here from Ecuador yesterday” is a not infrequent comment. With so many patrons speaking other languages, it is easy to find someone in the library who can act as interpreter if the immigrant adult comes without the bilingual child.

North Castle Public Library, is completely different. It is located in the wealthy hamlet of Armonk, New York, where IBM has its world headquarters and many of the patrons either work there or in New York City. They come in, often straight from work, the men wearing suits and ties and the women in designer dresses or sportswear, and tell wonderful stories about their travels around the world and the famous people they have known. They enjoy discussing the books they are returning and they love the audio books because of the long commute. We’ve had to put up strict signs about cell phone use in the library though I must say I miss hearing them call the nanny to check up on Tiffany’s dance lesson. Interestingly, at North Castle Library, a patron can borrow only four videos at a time (each library in the system determines its own policy in this respect, though the lending periods have been standardized for ease in “global” processing). There’s no security gate at North Castle Library that locks when an item is taken through without proper check out, as there is at Ossining Library. Yet, items go missing at North Castle Library (most often computer books and music CDs), just as they do at Ossining Library (most often music CDs and audio cassettes).

Security gate or no security gate, human beings are human beings. My fun is being a clerk type human at both of these wonderful libraries.