On Friday, December 1, a cold but sunny day, parents and children crowded outside the Mosholu Library to have their voices heard.
Library books were read, hot chocolate was sipped, and cookies were eaten, but the gathering had a serious tone.
This was a protest, and library goers were determined to make their voices heard by demonstrating a fundamental part of the branch’s programming that was missing since its two children’s librarians left about four months ago.
“We were very close to our librarians,” said Elisabeth von Uhl, one of the parents who organized the movement.
When parents found out that both librarians were leaving so close together, parents recalled feeling “devasted and shocked.”
The two had become integral parts of the community and truly cared about the children in the library, according to parents.
They often hosted extra activities, outside of the initial story time programming for both parents and kids, with supplies they acquired on their own and created out of their educational commitment to the library’s visitors, according to von Uhl.
“They were really great people and we really miss them,” said von Uhl, who has been bringing her 6-year-old son, Dax, to the library since he was a baby.
“Since (one of the librarians) was an internal transfer, I just assumed it would be a couple weeks and we would get someone new,” von Uhl explained. “But it shouldn’t take months.”
The library’s manager had told parents the library was replacing the librarians but had not given a timeline for when the replacements would arrive, according to parents who frequent the library.
“We go to the library three times a week, minimum,” said Tancy Rodriguez, another parent who has brought her 5-year-old-son to the the branch before he turned one. “When you go in there now it’s madness. There’s kids running around because there’s just the computers (there are no children’s librarians to facilitate activities) and you want your kids to do something more than have just screen time.”
Prior to the protest, parents had contacted NYPL and local elected officials to help raise awareness to the immediacy of the problem.
“Helping kids learn how to read and encouraging them to read earlier in life, which is what these librarians do, is extremely important,” said Assembleyman Jeffrey Dinowitz who wrote a letter to NYPL about the vacant positions on November 27.
“We’ve contacted the library and the’ve been proactive about finding replacements from what we heard,” said a representative from Councilman Andrew Cohen’s office.
The NYPL has since put in temporary children’s librarians to help facilitate story time and other programs at the branch.
“The library expects to fill two children’s librarian vacancies at the Mosholu branch by the end of December,” said Angela Montefinise the senior director of Communications and Marketing at NYPL, in a statement.
“We have two excellent candidates in various stages of the hiring process.”
“We understand and appreciate that despite these efforts, the last four months have been difficult for the community, and we look forward to returning to a full suite of children’s programming very soon.”