Author Archive

From Page to Stage by Patricia Braja

May 16th, 2013 No comments


May 11, 2013. It was Saturday morning 10 am.  After days of hard driving rain and more expected, this Saturday morning my preference would have been to sit in the local coffee house with a second cup of coffee, a bagel and the NY Times. Instead I attended the final culmination project for the Creative Aging in the Libraries Project at the Town of Pelham Library.  I am so glad I was there –  aside from being less caffeinated, I was  inspired!  This amazing group of women and men, ages 55 – 85 presented a reading of their original one act plays, as part of the Library’s program for older adults:  From Page to Stage: Creating Stories through Plays.  Working with the phenomenal, award winning teaching artist Frank Ingrasciotta for 8 consecutive weeks, the participants explored the fundamentals of writing a scene for the stage and learned how to transform it to a performance reading. Through writing prompts and exercises in a supportive two hour class environment alternating with work at home exercises, they examined dramatic structure and character development through understanding conflict, subtext and dialogue.

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Libraries = Intellectual Capital = Wise Investment in the Future

April 15th, 2013 No comments

An investment in our libraries is not only a wise investment in our county’s future it is an investment that insures Westchester’s place as the intellectual capital of New York. There is a return on investment that is more than just financial. It’s about empowering libraries and empowering communities to serve the public good. Take for example the role libraries played during October’s Hurricane Sandy.

Proving that libraries are more than just repositories of books and information, community building at the library could not be more evident than during that storm. Libraries were the “go to” hot spot – literally. They became the community living room and they were packed! Patrons connected and kept warm. They recharged not only their devices, but their spirits, dampened by nature’s sudden disruption of their lives. To meet the demand, Westchester libraries expanded their hours to accommodate patrons and youth librarians developed engaging programs
for students and their parents who found themselves with a long unexpected school break. Entrepreneurs who typically work from home set up shop in the local library, barely missing a beat. And Westchester Library System’s website kept county residents informed of each library’s online status, WiFi availability, and expanded hours.

What is the most significant return on investment in our libraries? Consider this – in a world where knowledge is power, the library’s free access to information, cultural, and educational resources can empower everyone. In Westchester, more than 7 million library visitors a year take advantage of these resources. Some of those visitors attended the nearly 25,000 library sponsored programs –author talks, story- telling, film screenings, art shows, concerts – all free of charge.

The Westchester Library System (WLS) works to empower libraries with effective capacity building tools and services. A strong library system is critical in the delivery of millions of dollars worth of enhanced services for a fraction of the cost of providing these services separately. And while WLS helped Westchester libraries save over $100,000 per year through centrally provided internet access, technology maintenance service, and upgrades – patrons benefited from free use of computers, internet access and WiFi at 44 library sites. (That’s twice as many Starbucks in Westchester – just in case you were wondering.)

With more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies requiring job applications to be completed online – libraries’ free access to the internet levels the job playing field. WLS further strengthens Westchester’s workforce offering programs in career opportunities, job search, resume writing and interviewing, and connections to the county’s One Stop Employment Center in Westchester libraries.

Keep in mind too, that the System’s 500,000 library card holders (about half the total county’s population) benefit from the cost efficient WLS’ delivery system and interlibrary loan service. More than 1 million items are loaned between the county’s libraries each year. This includes DVDs, audio books, e-books, books, and other print materials. Databases, including Morningstar and Lexis Nexis, language learning tools, and skill building programs, are just a few of the myriad of knowledge resources available online 24/7!

Are you still wondering why anyone would still go to the library to do research when you can ‘Google’ it from home? Ask a research librarian (there is one in your library!); Westchester librarians answered 1,531,058 reference last year. While Google can give you 50,000 responses to your inquiry, your librarian can help you find the one answer you need.

The return on investment can be measured not only by financial impact, but also by our collective community pride in opening the door to knowledge, changing a life, promoting quality of life, and insuring Westchester’s place as the intellectual capital of New York.

It’s National Library Week. Thank your local librarian. And take just one minute and join us in the celebration by making an investment in Westchester’s future with a contribution today.

Book Review of Fraternity

January 11th, 2013 No comments

For those of us who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, it was a decade that marked the beginning of epic shifts that would change our personal lives, our nation and the world. It was a time marked by social change and war that few understood. The counter culture and social revolution gave rise to protest, both violent and peaceful. We marched for racial and social justice. We cried for Bobby, Martin and John. We watched in horror as college students, much like us, were shot down at Kent State. We ended each night in rage over the gruesome images from Vietnam on the 11 o’clock news. As a suburban teenager growing up in a working class neighborhood on Long Island, I sang along to Janis Ian’s Society’s Child with all the heartfelt emotion of my teenage angst and parental defiance.

It’s through the lens of 60’S and 70’S defiance and my past that I read Fraternity. Brady’s crisp, journalistic writing style beautifully tells the story of 5 of the 20 African American men Fr. John Brooks recruited to the College of Holy Cross in the late 1960’s. He believed these young African American men had the potential to succeed if given the opportunity. Fr. Brooks took a personal interest in not only their education, but their personal lives. He “mentored, defended, coached, and befriended them through an often challenging four years of college, pushing them to reach for goals that would sustain them as adults”. Fr. Brooks, who eventually would become a beloved president of the college, was often challenged by his peers, alumni and the community for taking on such a “risk”. The financial risk alone was staggering – as these new recruits were offered full scholarships. It was a pivotal time for the college and things did not always go smoothly. But Fr. Brooks held fast to his ideals and never wavered in his support of these young men.

But what really drew me into this book was the story about the men themselves. Do you remember your first day of college? Scary, right? The first in their families to attend college, these men had the courage to enter a world very different from their own. The College of Holy Cross was, “white, [JESUIT] and all male,” with high academic standards and high expectations. Far from home, out of their own comfort zones, they entered a world that was hardly putting out the welcome mat. They were challenged but not deterred. They formed their bonds, worked hard, and persevered. They blazed a trail that others would follow. And each followed a passion that lead them to make a difference; a difference that continues to this day.

Did they know that their pursuit of a good education and a better life for their families would in effect play a role in changing society? Their time at CHC put them in the spotlight; they were challenged to reach their potential and make a difference. They continue to follow a path that brings light to MLK’s dream that men be judged by their character and not the color of their skin.

Now 40 years later, I am inspired by these brave men. I am awed by their courage and steadfastness. Read the book. It’s not too late to be inspired to make a difference. We still have a lot of work to do.

Tickets are still available for the 15th Annual African American Literary Celebration on Friday, January 18th featuring Fraternity author, Diane Brady and Holy Cross alumni Eddie Jenkins. Purchase your tickets here!

Peace on Earth, Yoga and Pilates

December 14th, 2012 No comments

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, the festivities bring with them a fair amount of stress. Its easy to overlook taking care of yourself during the holidays.  Take a moment to breathe deeply, drink plenty of water ( yes it really works and counteracts the bubbly stuff you may be indulging in) and download some free soothing music with your library card.  (I just downloaded Beethoven’ s 5 Secrets on Freegal – Amazing).  For added measure –  give yourself the gift of YOGA.   Check out  Melissa Tatge’s Restorative Yoga on Friday, December 14 and December 21. Learn more and sign up for yoga or pilates. Two hours of true peace on earth.  Even a beginner can do it!   It’s on Santa’s list with your name!

Are you looking for a gift to bring to your neighbors holiday party?

During Hurricane Sandy, they fed you warm meals, let the family take showers, and you did more than one load of laundry at their house.  Your annual cookie platter and  bottle of wine  just does not seem to be enough.   Go right now to Westchester’s most enchanting cultural and historical property that is right in our back yard.  There is something for everyone all year long at Historic Hudson Valley. You can download a family gift membership! No hassle at the mall!  You can shop in your pjs.   A family membership covers two adults and three children – with lots of goodies, gift shop discounts, discounts to the sites, including 5 passes to the BLAZE!  A family membership even includes 8 guest passes!  Add the wine and they just might ask you to join them at the Fabulous jack-o-lantern BLAZE next fall!.

Gift idea for your executive assistant:

Your executive assistant is always there for you, making sure your calendars are synced,  that you are on time for appointments, and double checking that the important proposal is typo free.  Why is it that buying a gift for the EA is always so darn hard?!  We have a suggestion.  Purchase a ticket to Westchester Library System’s Annual Literary Breakfast on January 18th at 8 am – 10:30, featuring Diane Brady, Bloomsberg Businessweek editor and author of “Fraternity”.  Give them the morning off to be inspired by this remarkable story of how one visionary mentor made a difference in the lives of five young men.  He/She will start the year with renewed commitment to keep you on track!  Tickets are still available online!

– Patricia Braja, Director of Development


New Website Offers Free Resources to Older Adults and Families

October 8th, 2012 No comments

Boxwood AllianceThe Boxwood Alliance ( offers a free aging in place resource for older adults and their families in Northern Westchester and Putnam Counties.  The idea for both the website and the not for profit organization emerged from a group of professionals in the area who work with older adults, including an elder law attorney, a long term care insurance planner, a geriatric care manager, a nurse executive, and others.  They had met in a geriatric coalition and decided to put their combined resources and information together in one place.  Catherine Wynkoop of Pound Ridge helped to get the process started and is now the board chairman.

“We chose the name ‘Boxwood’ because the plant is resilient and widespread in the region,” Wynkoop said.  “Bedford’s Dick Farrell, a Boxwood co-founder, came up with the name as a symbol of longevity and something connected to this area.”

Vice-chairman J Donna Sullivan of Somers stated that the goal was to have a single resource for individuals and families who are often overwhelmed when they realize they need help. “Too often we have families coming to us in ‘crisis’ mode.  We are building this website to be a useful resource for planning and a place to go for reliable information about options.”

To gain access to all the features of the site, including up to date feeds from national news carriers like the New York Times New Old Age Blog and Medicare Rights, users are invited to become a member.  Membership is free.  In addition, members are able to post comments and ask questions on the Community Forum page.  On the Community Connections page, they can share recommendations and rate their experiences with local businesses and vendors.

This fall, the Boxwood Alliance is coordinating Active Aging Week across upper Westchester and Putnam Counties during the week of September 23- 29. “We are reaching out to all the older adult programs and services across the region to join in celebrating the wealth of choices for remaining actively engaged,” said Wynkoop.  The Boxwood Alliance will feature these local events on its website and will promote them across the region.  Agencies and organization that wish to be included can reach the organization by email or by calling 914-764-3014

Westchester Business Roundtable At WLS

October 1st, 2012 No comments

In an attempt to better connect with the business community of Westchester County, the Westchester Library System holds regular meetings with key members of the community.  These meetings provide an opportunity to share some of the valuable initiatives developed by the Westchester Library System designed specifically for business.

Here is a copy of the presentation from our meeting this past summer.


Mark your calendar for Active Aging Week 9/23-29/12

September 23rd, 2012 No comments

Across the nation, people ages 50 years and older will experience the theme, “Be active your way” during Active Aging Week, the annual health promotion event of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) between September 23-29, 2012.
The Boxwood Alliance will join the national campaign by promoting events hosted by a wide variety of older adult programs and services across upper Westchester and lower Putnam Counties.  With community support, the Boxwood Alliance is a collaborative, free aging in place resource in the region for older adults and their families.

“These events are opportunities for promoting the wealth of programming available for older adults in our community.  Unfortunately, many residents do not know the extent of quality programming available through local town recreation departments, libraries, local businesses, healthcare providers and others,” says Catherine Wynkoop, BoxwoodAlliance Chairman.

According to the World Health Organization, “active aging” means optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people grow older.

“The images of aging are changing,” observes Colin Milner, CEO of ICAA, “and today it is known that staying physically and mentally active leads to better overall health, improves mood and brain health, and encourages older adults to contribute to society, their communities and their families. That’s why the special events of Active Aging Week open the doors to new, fun and educational activities.”

Go to  for a growing list of Active Aging Week activities. Check back over the next several weeks to see the list grow.

Calling all Seniors

September 20th, 2012 No comments

Next week is chock full of opportunities to explore ‘Creative Aging’…

Celebrating Active Aging Week 9/23-29/12

Free events for older adults, their families and friends
We invite you to join us in celebrating the wonderful selection of free lectures, trips and special events (bolded) planned for older adults, their families and friends across upper Westchester and Putnam Counties, particularly during Active Aging Week.

See also, as this list is growing.

Sunday 9/23
2-5 PM, Special Concert at the Mahopac Public Library (668 Route 6): The John Arrucci Sextet performing original compositions tinged with Jazz, Classical and World Music influences. Free admission. For more information, call 845-628-2009 or email

3-4 PM, Garden Lecture at the Ruth Keeler Library: Gardens Filled With Life – Designing with Northeast Flora. The North Salem Open Land Foundation and the Library present this talk by author and landscape architect, Carolyn Summers. She will speak about the ways in which indigenous (native) plants form the basis of the food web that supports a healthy, biodiverse landscape. 276 Titicus Road, North Salem, New York 10560, (914) 669 – 5161.

Monday 9/24
1-2 PM, Wii Bowling exercise demonstration for Active Aging Week at the Fox Center, 198 Carpenter Avenue, Mount Kisco. Call 666-8766 to register.

6-7 PM, Mind-Body Wellness Workshop at the Somers Library, 80 Primrose Street, Somers, NY 10589. Register online at or call 914-232-5717.

Tuesday 9/25
10-11:30 AM, A Refreshing Walk Around Armstrong Preserve in recognition of Active Aging Week. The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy’s Land Steward will take guests safely through a forested nature preserve. Distance is approximately 1 mile. This walk is not strenuous. Address of Armstrong Preserve: 1361 Old Post Road, Pound Ridge, NY10576. Participants should meet at the top of the driveway.  More information is available here