Author Archive

TASC to replace the GED exam in New York State – What you need to know

January 7th, 2014 No comments

A new high school equivalency exam – the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) – will replace the GED in New York State.

The TASC will be similar to the GED but will change in difficulty and format over the next three years.






Important Information – the TASC will:

1) have 5 subject areas – reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

2) be primarily multiple choice, with one essay, and some short answer, in 2014.

3) be available in English, Spanish, and Braille.

4) be free in New York State.

5) be offered on paper. At some testing locations, it will also be offered on computer. The percentage of computer testing available will increase each year.

6) Accommodations for various disabilities are available. Approval for accommodations must accompany the application for a test date, so it’s important to apply early for accommodations.


If you took the GED test between 2002 and 2013 and passed any of the 5 subject tests,  your passing scores will count until the end of 2015!

Connect with us at one of our TASC centers. Click here for hours, locations and other help.

For additional information, please visit the New York State Department of Education website or email us at

Want to make aspirations a reality? Dialog, Listen, Act.

November 8th, 2013 No comments

Just back from a 3-day training with The Harwood Institute’s Public Innovation Lab.

 harwood logo

Key take-aways:

A community dialog on shared aspirations creates new possibilities, particularly a way to identify where small actions can begin to (re)build trust among community members.

Taking these small actions begins to allow us to tell a different story about ourselves. Imagine changing the narrative from how no one cares, to one where we talk about the good that emerged when several did care and act.

There are tools to do this and chief among them is community conversation about the things that matter to a community’s members – a dialog libraries and librarians are well placed to host.

The American Library Association is behind this program in a significant way as a means to inform the continuing evolution of libraries.

For a taste of some of the dialog to come, consider how you would respond to the four questions below. Want to be part of this discussion? Send me your email address and I’ll let you know when we schedule Community Conversations in 2014.


1. What kinds of community do you want to live in?

2. Why is that important to you?

3. How is this different from how you see things now?

4. What are some of the things that need to happen to create that kind of community?


Here’s to discovering our shared aspirations and fulfilling them together.

Celebrating the 2013 Teen Learning Ambassadors

November 4th, 2013 No comments

On November 2, we gathered at the Yonkers Public Library to honor 21 very special kids who participated in the 2013 Teen Learning Ambassadors Program.

It was hard not to be moved by the Learning Ambassador celebration. Parents shared stories about how excited their kids were to go to work each day.  Many called their coordinator Francine Vernon – the brains behind this initiative – the next day to offer their thanks for having made such a significant investment in their children.  As Francine just noted to me, the kids had likely not shared with their parents what they were doing day-to-day, so this was a chance for them to be dazzled.

In truth, the parents absolutely glowed.  The teens, initially a bit tongue-tied during the interview, warmed to their subject. Then the librarian mentors added their perspectives, which were a mix of pride in their teen ambassadors and delight in what they accomplished.

A special thanks goes out to Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (35th S.D.) for joining us. We would also like to thank our supporters, without them there wouldn’t be a program like this:

  • New York State Library Summer Reading Funds
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • The Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation
  • Great Potential/Liberty Partnership Program at Purchase College, SUNY
  • Wheelabrator Westchester


To learn more about the WLS Learning Ambassadors Program, and how you can support it, click here.


Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins with WLS Ambassadors

Six Things To Know About Individual Health Insurance In New York

September 30th, 2013 No comments

ACA1. PLANS, RATES AND MORE.  Health insurance plans sold in the NY State Health Insurance Marketplace are known as Qualified Health Plans (QHPs). Initial information on plans, rates, and updated information on how to enroll is available at  Starting October 1, you can enroll for coverage that begins January 1, 2014.

2. PLAN COVERAGE.  QHPs offered in the Marketplace will be available in four tiers (platinum, gold, silver and bronze).  Plans will offer comprehensive medical services.  Preventive services will be offered at no cost to the consumer.

3. ENROLLMENT.  Enroll in-person, online, or by phone.



Set up an appointment to enroll with the assistance of a Navigator.  This service is free and available throughout the county.  Call one of the groups below to make an appointment and ask about any documents that are needed to help the process.  While some groups may target specific audiences in their outreach, they are available to serve all consumers. 

 a)    Westchester County Department of Health – Call the Navigator Information Line at (914) 813- 5192 or

b)    Westchester Disabilities on the Move – Call (914) 968-4717 ext. 23 or 25

c)    Young Invincibles – Call (914) 979-1747 or (914) 458-2294.

d)    Business Council of Westchester – Call (914) 948-2110 ext. 311 to make an appointment.

Additionally, clients of selected local health centers can receive assistance in enrollment. Centers include: The Open Door, Hudson River Health Care, and Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center.


Use the information and tools available at the NYS web site after October 1.

By Phone.

The NY State information and enrollment hotline is (855) 355-5777. Hours are Monday through Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm.

4. IMMIGRANTS.  Immigrants can participate in the marketplace. More information is available at the New York State website available at

5. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.  Those earning less than $45,960 as an individual, or $94,200 for a family of 4, may be eligible for financial assistance that will make coverage more affordable. Assistance such as tax credits will not be available to those on Medicare or Medicaid.

6. SENIORS.  Anyone approaching 65 should enroll in Medicare as soon as eligible, which will cost the individual less than a marketplace plan. For assistance in selecting among Medicare plans, contact the Senior Benefit Information Center Helpline at (914) 231-3260.




Navigators will be meeting with consumers by appointment at several public libraries.  Limited walk-in service will be provided as schedules permit. Library locations confirmed so far include:

  • Mount Kisco Public Library – Tuesdays, 11am-6pm and Saturdays, 10am-4pm
  • New Rochelle Public Library – Tuesdays, 10am to 12pm
  • Ossining Public Library – Fridays, 10am to 1pm
  • Somers Library– Saturdays, 12pm-5pm
  • Yonkers Riverfront Library – Thursdays 9am-12pm, Fridays, 1pm-3pm
  • Yonkers Grinton I. Will Library – Thursday 3pm-6pm 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month, 11am-3pm


CMS Marketplace website – Their information line is available 24/7 at (800) 318-2596)

Federal Government Health Reform website –


This document was prepared for the Westchester Library System and its patrons.

Updates are available at

Questions?  Contact

September 30, 2013

How to Gift Wrap your Holiday Gift

December 21st, 2012 No comments

Gift-wrapping always triggers a tension between my arts & craftsy skills, and vivid memories of once small kids tearing through carefully wrapped presents like rabid wolverines.

Slowing them down became a bit of a past time.  Starting with rolls of Penny Saver end roll paper (really, why buy fancy paper for them?), the best trick was gluing favorite wrapped candies to the paper (needed to remove them first), pulling the old box-within-a-box trick, and lots of double knotted ribbons.

But for special gifts, it is fun to get creative.  Origami boxes are always good – and crazy simply to make.  (For big items, find any nice paper that you can cut into a square; make two for the top and bottom.) Nice packaging is an appropriate showcase for the thought and time invested in homemade gifts.  It doesn’t take a lot – plain paper, brown kraft paper, or white end rolls (call Penny Saver in Yorktown to see if they have them available) or fabrics (think cloth napkins). You can cut out shapes, and use markers, sprigs of pine or dried herbs, along with contrasting ribbon.
To get ideas:
  • If you’re in the library, head to Dewey # 745.54 – that’s where we’ve cataloged books on gift wrapping, making homemade cards, and other paper crafts.
  • Do a Google search and look at the image results.  It’s always amazing to me just how specific you can be; for example “gift wrap ideas for large gifts” or “wrapping food gifts”.
  • Go directly to the online photo sharing virtual bulletin board Pinterest for a quick visual feats.
  • And then there’s always Martha.

Happy Holidays!

— Elena Falcone, Director, Office of Community Connections


Gifts for the Foodie with a Library Card!

December 20th, 2012 No comments

The best decision I ever made was to marry a man who loves to cook.  Not surprisingly, I’d say the second best decision may have been to take up running.  Aside from amazing tomato sauce he makes some of the best bread.  When that is matched with a flavorful olive oil – it’s matrimonial heaven.

I’ve decided to share that joy this holiday season; he’s making the bread and I did the “hard” work of buying the olive oil.  My go-to place is Pure Mountain located at 11 North Broadway in Tarrytown.  In addition to being able to sample their flavorful oils, they have amazing balsamic vinegars that make a feast of anything from meats to salads, pears to poundcake.

Need an amazing Christmas gift – try the basil infused olive oil and the lemon balsamic vinegar, which together make a salad an event.  Or nab a small bottle of chocolate balsamic vinegar and pack it with a homemade pound cake.  Or make up a few loaves of bread using my husband’s latest favorite recipe (thank you New York Times)  no-kneed, 18 hour ciabatta-type bread (which has as it’s base this amazing New York times sourced recipe); bag each loaf with a nicely-wrapped bottle of peppery olive oil.
Library Lovers Alert:  Pure Mountain says they’ll give 10 percent off to anyone who shows their library card at check out.

WLS Holiday Gift Guide

December 10th, 2012 No comments

The holiday season is upon us, and that means presents! Some people have the easiest time coming up with great gifts for family and friends. While other people need some help finding the perfect present.

This year, our staff decided to put together a 10 day holiday gift guide. Each gift idea truly represents the personality of our staff members!


“This year, at least two friends are going to score an Empire Pass, which gives a carload of friends, family, and pets free access to county parks all year long.  Westchester has hundreds, no, thousands of trails that take your breath away – because they are either energetic and/or absolutely beautiful.  Maybe I’ll add in a copy of 50 Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley: Hikes and Walks from Westchester County to Albany, and my favorite thermos so they don’t forget about winter hikes – and really, what better time for hot chocolate?”

Elena Falcone, Director, Office of Community Connections


How did you spend your Saturday?

September 28th, 2012 No comments

Past GED Connect!

This was supposed to be a picture with everyone facing the camera giving a thumbs-up to all those who are doing GED study with us.  Instead you got a classic “OMG – what did you say!!!” pose that happens right after; but thats okay – it reflects the highly engaged flavor of the day.  This picture was taken after 5 hours of GED Tutor 101, our homegrown course of study that prepares our 30+ tutors to help folks around the country prepare for and pass the GED.

Want to be a tutor; contact me at  Want to pass the test?  Come to any one of our walk-in locations listed here, most at a public library near you!
Categories: Resources Tags: ,

The Unexpected Conversation

September 27th, 2012 No comments

I had my morning coffee at an event hosted by WCA over at Tappan Hill.  The main event was Joe Lhota, Chairman/CEO of MTA, who certainly left me with a new appreciation for the complexity of the MTA and the impact of MetroNorth on county business and quality of life.  (Now, if only we could find a way to get from East to West….)     But my personal main event was one of those side-conversations – totally unexpected and absolutely the thing you needed to talk about at that time.  I said hi to a fellow who turned out to be a CEO of a new consulting company in the county.  We spoke about our respective business experiences, then life in the county – he’s been in Peekskill, Ossining, and now Mt Vernon.  Noting my association with libraries, he spoke about how impressive the Mt. Vernon library building was, which gave me an opportunity to describe some of the programs we do there and around the county.  That got us on to the topic of storytelling.

One of the programs we’re trying to pilot in Ossining, is to develop a teen storytelling troupe, positioning it as a different way to engage young people in literature and then have them engage the community by offering their stories to several audiences during Black History Month.  My java buddy told me about the West African tradition of griot, an oral tradition through which the history of a family or community is captured and shared; how in the process of hearing and telling, history is narrated a bit less linearly – you can see in the recounting how events and actions circle back.

Giving and receiving; offering what’s known and then integrating new information to create something new; finding what’s different as well as what endures.  That is a more exciting way of conceptualizing a program for young adults – not tying them into another goal-oriented, linear process in which a story moves from a book to a person to an audience and stops, but a way in which troupe members share, receive, capture, and co-create.  There is an opportunity here to engage people in a bit of introspection and appreciation of where our communities have come from and were they are going.

It was just a cup of coffee, but in making a connection, we told each other some stories, and started something new.  Nice way to end the week!


Volunteers in our Westchester Public Libraries

September 13th, 2012 No comments

Volunteers make good things happen.  This is especially true in the Westchester’s public libraries.  Here’s one example: the GED Connect! program.  I spent last Saturday listening to a dozen volunteer GED Tutors brainstorm about how to do their work even better.   GED tutors make an amazing impact in the lives of county residents by providing free one-to-one assistance in preparing for GED exams.  What stopped me in my tracks was being reminded that, oddly enough, the exam isn’t the point.   As about 20% of Americans know, stuff happens that can derail getting a high school diploma.  So what really matters is that adults who circle back to get that diploma are supported and positively engaged in what the GED represents – a commitment to learning at any stage of life.  As one volunteer said:  “Whether they ultimately take the test or not, I know at the end of a session I’ve done something good because the student is excited about having learned something new.”

Public libraries and life-long learning – yup, we make it happen.

Categories: Articles Tags: