New Saugerties library director aims for inclusivity

Evelyn Rogers

Evelyn Rogers, who has served as the new director of the Saugerties Library for just four weeks, says the most important quality for a local library to embody is diversity — in both its community and collection.

“The library should reflect the community,” she said in an interview this week. “If that is balanced, where the library is truly reflecting the community, that is a good library.”

Most recently, Rogers served as director for Mamakating Library in Wurtsboro; she has also been employed at the Finkelstein Memorial Library in Rockland County’s Spring Valley, the Grafton Public Library in Grafton, Mass., and the Bolton Public Library in Bolton, Mass. While she has also served as a librarian, Rogers feels more satisfied in an administrative role.

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“As a librarian, you are kind of focused on one part of a whole picture,” she explained. “When you’re a library director, you see a whole picture, the whole library, all of its programs, everything that is happening in the library you have to be aware of it. When you’re a librarian, it’s one specific service that you’re focused on.”

Rogers earned a master’s degree in library science at SUNY Albany after finishing her undergrad work at Dominican College in Rockland County. She said she “always knew” that she would embark on the career path of a librarian, but spent a period volunteering with Americorps’ Vista program, working in human service roles for domestic violence victims and other at-risk groups. She said this experience informed her later library career.

“Libraries are nice, peaceful places for everyone. There’s always something in a library for everyone in a community — hat’s another thing I’ve always loved about libraries, it’s a place where everyone can go to,” she said. “You don’t have to spend money, you can come here and be, and no one is going to kick you out for not spending money. If it’s to come in and use the bathroom or because it’s cold outside, that’s OK. A librarian is one of the only other professions where you can speak to a professional for free. You can try to get information from your doctor or pharmacist, but they’re going to have you make an appointment. You can go in and speak to your librarian, and there’s no cost.”

Rogers volunteers with Family of Woodstock, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and other organizations.

“I think it’s important to do volunteer work, I think it’s important to be of service to other people. Not everybody can do volunteer work, that’s OK – I feel that if you can, you should.”

Patronizing Spring Valley’s library as a child, years before her later employment there as an adult, she loved the Little House on the Prairie, Wizard of Oz and Judy Bloom series, books by Beverly Cleary and Anne of Green Gables. Even now, Rogers said that her favorite book was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, which is currently displayed in the library as her “staff pick” book.

“It has everything in it— it’s about life, love, friendship, loss.” She also recommends Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (“After I read it, I thought, ‘Jow did I not read this book sooner.’”)  Plots that take place in New York, she said, resonate deeply with her — she specifically recommended Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a novel about a poor family’s struggles in the early decades of the 20th century.

“I love the Hudson Valley area, I love the history, I love all the food and wine and its diversity,” she said. “I love New York City, in that there’s always something to do there, there’s lots of museums and things to do. I love the food. When I was a kid, my parents used to take us camping to Lake George for summer vacation, and I love that area as well. I love the Adirondack Mountains. There’s just so many stories in New York. I love meeting all the people and listening to them.”

Among Rogers’ hobbies include museum-perusing and wine-tasting, a favorite leisure activity with her husband. She recommends El Paso Winery in Ulster Park, Robibero Winery in New Paltz, and Applewood Winery in Warwick.

“What I find interesting about wineries, once you start tasting local wines and comparing them, you can almost start to taste the soil of where they grew out of,” she explained. “Then you start to taste other local foods, and not that it tastes the same, but you can feel and taste that they come from the same area. There’s this combined taste of ‘this goes together, this should go together.’”

Currently, Rogers lives in Ellenville with her husband, two cats (one named Charlotte — in homage to her favorite book — another named Spalding and a dog named Buddy). She said that she was drawn to work at the Saugerties Library because she was “ready for the challenge” of a larger community.

“This community seems very supportive of the library being here, being open to library services, and unfortunately that’s not always the case — they don’t see a library as necessary. That’s been very nice to not have to worry about that, to worry about people not being in favor of the library.”

Rogers touted the library’s extensive calendar of events, promoting the Saugerties Film Society’s weekly Saturday movie showings, the Dungeons & Dragons group that meets on Tuesday and Thursday, and the Motherless Daughters’ Support Group that meets once per month. Additional library programming is available at www.saugertiespubliclibrary.org.

“I think what people can do to help their library is to use their library — get a library card, come in and read the newspaper or check out a book, use the Internet service that the library has,” she said when asked how residents could help the local library. “Using the library in some way always helps the library.”

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