Librarian retires after 17 years on City Island

After 31 years of service to the New York Public Library, a beloved City Island librarian is checking out.

Evelyn Gerges, manager of the City Island Library, came in for her last day of stocking and checking out books, leading children’s activities, and answering questions on Friday, August 20.

Parents and kids in the neighborhood were sad to see her go, but grateful to her. “We’re going to miss her,” said Rich Patterson, a local dad and library regular. “She really is the best.”

Gerges spent 17 years at the City Island branch, beginning on March 17, 1992. “My first day being on St. Patty’s Day, I kenw that was my lucky omen,” said Gerges, who decorated her office with Leprechauns and clovers in honor of her fateful start at the library.

Gerges, who had worked for the NYPL at Fordham, Grand Concourse, and Mosholu Parkway in the past, said that upon arriving on the Island, it was clearly the place for her to settle in.

“I knew I’d retire from here,” said Gerges. “I was not moving from here, why would you? It’s such a wonderful community.”

But Gerges, who captured the prestigious New York Times Librarian Award in 2004, will not be heading for listless days just yet. After a brief celebration trip to Myrtle Beach, she’ll soon start work with Green Chimneys, an orphanage closer to her home.

“I’d like to do something different now, a change of pace,” she explained. “I want to be around kids, though.”

During her time at the library, Gerges did readings in Pelham Bay Park every Thursday morning for three years, and has brought a number of other kids’ programs to City Island. She’ll miss the relationships she has formed.

“I’ve met so many interesting people here that were traveling through,” she recalled. “People from Florida, Ukraine, France, everywhere. They come here because they want a map, usually trying to find Yankee Stadium.”

Her son Nick will graduate high school next May, 2011, and will likely go to Manhattan College. At home, Gerges watches Nick play basketball and baseball when she’s not reading James Patterson or Danielle Steele books for pleasure.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who Gerges called “a great friend of the library,” came for a visit on Thursday, August 19 to honor Gerges for her service.

“Congratulations,” he told Gerges, presenting her with a large, framed Proclamation that he signed. Vacca turned to the children that were seated in the small theatre room, and told them, “We are always appreciative of people in our neighborhood who guide us to read and learn more. And one of those people that has done that for 21 years is Evelyn Gerges!”

As it turns out, perhaps feeling that it wouldn’t be the same without Gerges, assistant librarian, Dennis Desiderio, retired as well, on the same day.

Desiderio worked at City Island for 16 years, and recalled the early days with fondness. “You couldn’t even stock books then,” he said. “In those days this library was just a storefront, one long room with no frills. The schoolhouse effect.”

Both Desiderio and Gerges watched a kids’ puppet show on Thursday — their penultimate day — with a bittersweet happiness.

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