Library director celebrates 15 years at the helm
When Cathleen Towey Merenda became director of the Westbury Memorial Public Library 15 years ago, there were 14 computers in the adult and children’s libraries. It’s a far cry from today, when technology is one of the main reasons people come to the library.
“The biggest changes have been in the technology arena. We (now have) 31 public computers, 19 public laptops and 18 public iPads,” Merenda said. “And two full-time and five part-time staff to support all the technology.”This month, Merenda celebrates 15 years of spearheading the library as its director. During her tenure, she’s helped transition the library into the digital age, facilitate a contract with Carle Place to allow them to utilize the library’s services and written grants that have helped the library maintain services without adding extra burdens to the taxpayer. Under her leadership over the last 15 years, the library has seen increased circulation as well as expanded children’s services. But Merenda said one of the things she’s most proud of is the way the staff has been able to make the library a destination for the community’s teens.
“We have exceptionally strong youth services. We’ve tied the youth services into the changing needs and interests of the kids,” Merenda said, noting there is a huge influx of teens at the library after school. “We’ve given our kids a place to go where it’s safe and supervised, and they’re enjoying the things they like in a safe environment. I’m so proud of that.”
It was the children’s services that in part, drew Merenda to the library. Early in her career, she worked on federal grants that funded programs to bring nontraditional library users into libraries for 14 communities around Nassau County. One of the communities Merenda worked with was Westbury, where she helped establish the Circle Time program, which 30 years later, is still going strong.
“I fell in love with the children’s library and the beautiful community surrounding the library,” Merenda said. “When the job became open, I was so excited to apply to be the director.”
“Westbury is just rich with diversity and with the diversity is the challenge of serving the needs of these different groups,” Merenda said. “Even with Carle Place coming on board, how do we satisfy all those needs? The library wants to have something for everybody here so we always want to offer as much as possible to the broadest audience of people.”
Merenda has had a lifelong affinity for the written word. She grew up on the same block as the Woodlawn Heights branch of the New York Public Library, where she regularly visited and attended story times. In high school and college, she worked at a library and she joined the Westbury Memorial Public Library in 2001, after serving nine years as manager of adult services in the Port Washington Public Library.
Merenda served on the Carnegie Medal Committee for the American Library Association in 2014 and currently writes a regular column for The Westbury Times highlighting interesting, new books that can be found at the library.