For more than 40 years, the Roosevelt Island Library has served a vibrant community of users who enjoy a wide range of materials, programs, and services. I joined the branch last fall as its new manager, and it has been a pleasure to meet the Island’s residents: avid readers eager to check out their next favorite book, families who attend our storytime programs, and students of all ages who actively take part in our programs (such as our popular technology classes, chess workshops, author and expert talks, and book discussion groups). The past few months have been both enlightening and inspiring for me due to the passion Roosevelt Islanders have for their library.
As many of you who read The WIRE may recall, last month the branch received a wonderful donation from the Roosevelt Island Community Literary Associates to begin a new collection in honor of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Library was thrilled by the opportunity to offer this new material to our users. However, I must admit that in my enthusiasm to incorporate the collection, I removed an archive that I have since learned was of great significance to our patrons. It was an error that I profoundly regret. Once I realized my mistake, the branch immediately undertook an intensive effort to rebuild the archive, and I would like to provide the community with an update on our progress.
With a generous donation of materials from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society and its president, Judith Berdy, the Library now holds a significant number of issues of The Island View from 1978–1981, as well as many original back issues of The Main Street WIRE dating back to 1981. Ms. Berdy also donated her collection of newspaper articles about Welfare Island from 1950–1970.
Dr. Jack Resnick lent the Library his bound collection of back issues of The Main Street WIRE from 1981-1996, which we have used to make copies of missing issues of the newspaper. Any remaining missing issues will be copied from the New York Public Library’s collection at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
The Library’s archive also contains an original binder of newspaper articles about the Island from 1976-1980, to which more than 100 articles have been added from NYPL’s newspaper databases. We plan to update this collection regularly.
The restored Roosevelt Island archive now resides at the front of the branch near the circulation desk, easily accessible to all who wish to use it.
To further supplement the printed history of the Island, the Library has begun the process of conducting oral histories with local residents – such as Susan Cina, Dr. Resnick, and Ms. Berdy – in an effort to record their memories for posterity and preserve the community’s collective history for future generations. It is our hope to continue this project for the long-term future and interview Island pioneers as well as more recent residents. We encourage those who would like to participate in this new oral archive to visit the branch to schedule an interview.
The restoration of this archive and the Library’s new oral history collection would not have been possible without the support of the residents and organizations of Roosevelt Island. We look forward to growing this collection and hope, if others in the community have material about the history of Roosevelt Island, that you’ll share it with the Library and our users. On behalf of the branch and myself, I extend our deepest appreciation to our patrons for sharing their resources and knowledge with us.
Carlos Chavez, Manager
Roosevelt Island NYPL Branch