2012-01-18 / Civics and Politics / Community / Misc

Local Librarians Keep in Step with Tech Revolution

A PCN&R FLASH-BACK - First published October 12, 2011
by Lois Powers


Gillian Thorpe, Director of Julia L. Butterfield Library Gillian Thorpe, Director of Julia L. Butterfield Library The Cloud, Nooks, Androids, Apps, Platforms, Gigabytes, E-Books -- terms “Greek” to a librarian? Not in Philipstown! Tech is a language understood and spoken by the new keepers of the flame of knowledge and information at the Town’s famed libraries.

The Julia L. Butterfield Memorial Library on Morris Avenue in Cold Spring has a dynamic Director, Gillian Thorpe at the helm, who proclaims herself “a real techie,” while Pam McCluskey, titled “Cybrarian” at the Desmond- Fish Library in Garrison, powers that library’s technology department and, among other things, teaches kids and grown-ups how to fix their own computers.

Libraries – originally founded for the edification of the gentrified class -- have become propulsion centers of information by providing books of every kind to not only those who can physically get to their library during openhours, but now at anytime to anyone anywhere who is connected, in all the myriad fashions now available, to the internet.


Pam McCluskey, of the Desmond-Fish Library 
Lois Powers Pam McCluskey, of the Desmond-Fish Library Lois Powers Want to trace your ancestry, take a Civil Service test, or prepare for the S.A.T.’s or A.C.T with real-trial tests? Or perhaps it’s time to learn or brush-up on that language. Go to the library, where these programs are available for free.

Commuting and wish you had a good book or magazine to read? If you have an Internet device with you, and you are a library member, simply visit the Butterfield or Desmond-Fish website and download something right at the Cold Spring train station.

“These new technologies level the playing field,” says, Carol Donick, Desmond-Fish Director since 1996. Having access to the internet opens infinite possibilities to anyone wanting to learn from the simplest interesting fact to reading the complete works of Shakespeare, Austin or Yeats. “Books will not become obsolete,” says Donick, “rather the new technologies will augment the reading experience.” Moving the library forward, Donick, hired McCluskey, a former I.B.M. software expert, “the smartest thing I ever did,” says Donick.

Keeping in-step with the tech revolution, McCluskey and Thorpe from Butterfield, with librarians around the country, rely on Overdrive Media, the largest internet content management company, to purchase e-books, audio-books, newspapers, magazines and DVD’s for members.

From the classics to popular writers to New York Times best sellers, library-owned Overdrive software renders information available literally, at one’s fingertips. “It’s not about books, it’s about information,” says Thorpe.

At both of Philipstown’s libraries there are ongoing computer classes, public computers, online databases, local history information, movies in DVD & VHS format, and lectures. Looking for a Defensive Driving Course? Butterfield Library has it.

“Cybrarian” McCluskey has turned the Desmond-Fish Library into a practical learning center where members learn more about their computers, as well as new mobile devices like the reader tablets Nook, Kindle, and I-Pad. Members can learn how to use then borrow such a device from the library for a “test-drive” before they go out and buy one.

McCluskey also teaches how to retrieve data from damaged smart-phones and computers saving people hundreds of dollars and at least 15 computers from ending-up in the dump.

While “taking-out” a book to read, or sitting and reading one at the library will never completely go out of style, Thorpe, Donick and McCluskey agree, having the capability to download information searches and books directly and instantly onto a mobile internet device frees one from having to go somewhere (the library) to get it. Instead, libraries are now going “virtual” making information accessible to anyone with a library card. All three librarians have noticed the rise in intellectual curiosity with information being so readily available.

Circulation (items takenout of the library) at the Butterfield Library has jumped 700% since using technology, from 8,000 items in 2000 to 65,000 in 2010!

Differences Between

Philipstown’s Libraries

While the Julia L. Butterfield and the Desmond- Fish libraries are members of the Mid-Hudson Library System of 70 libraries sharing thousands of “real” and “virtual” books, Butterfield and Desmond-Fish libraries differ from one another.

If you prefer the traditional, quiet library atmosphere with private reading areas, then the Desmond-Fish Library is for you. Nestled off of Route 403 on a beautiful parcel of land in Garrison, and surrounded by soon-to-be fall foliage trees, this is a spacious, stately but comfortable library with lovely views, and a cozy children’s room.

The Butterfield Library, on the other hand, offers a casual community-center atmosphere with kids studying, drawing, or just relaxing after school, and an internet café ambience with Dads who work from home sitting in the library with their laptops preferring to work around others rather than at home alone. Butterfield tends to be a busy, active place.

Receiving almost 79% of its income from public funding (unlike the privately-endowed Fish Library) -- approximately $276,000/year – the Butterfield Library becomes home to Chamber of Commerce, Haldane school, parent, and local business meetings. “We have become a people-place, rather than a place for books,” Thorpe says. Butterfield Library is open 7 days a week with Sunday being their busiest day.

“We get a grant through our investment firm and host three week-long FREE summer camps to Philipstown residents,” says Butterfield’s Director who lives in Cold Spring, “Kids between the ages 5 - 12 explore reading, science, math, nature, the arts, etc. Some of our activities include a day trip to Sandy Beach, making S’mores using a pizza box, tin foil and the sun, put on plays, learn African music... we even had a wolf come and visit!”

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