The Village of Westbury recently designated six sites as historic landmarks in an effort to celebrate the rich foundation the community was built upon. In the coming weeks, The Westbury Times will be taking a closer look at these significant sites, which have had an indelible effect in shaping Westbury into the community it is today.
For 92 years, the Robert Bacon Memorial Children’s Library has given Westbury’s youngsters the opportunity to learn and prosper in a “positive, welcoming, warm place,” as Westbury Library director Cathleen Merenda described.
When the Village of Westbury began marking several of its historical sites, the Children’s Library was an obvious choice. Founded by Martha Bacon in memory of her husband Colonel Robert Bacon, the library not only holds special relics, maps and art from years past, but has also been teaching, inspiring and nurturing local children since its establishment in 1924. Bacon, who served as Secretary of State and Ambassador to France during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, believed in igniting curiosity in the minds of children, and it was for this reason that the library was built as his memorial.
“It’s really a living organism,” said Merenda, highlighting the personality and impact the library has that other memorials do not. “It’s a memorial that has a very practical function for kids in the community…giving them a special place to spend their time that is uniquely theirs.”
Though the library has kept up with technological changes and expanded its scope of learning materials over the years, the aim to “develop children’s imaginations and abilities to dream” has remained steadfast, Merenda said.
On a typical summer day, the library is filled with children reading, playing with toys and using the computers or iPads, surrounded by what both Merenda and Head of the Children’s Library Emily Farrell describe as the most kind-hearted and helpful staff.
Also offered to the children are a variety of events ranging from yoga classes to obstacle courses. The library’s employees are constantly developing new ideas to utilize their outdoor space, and were fortunate to have recently received new benches and evaporative easels from an Eagle Scout, allowing children to create art and enjoy the outdoors.
Once the school year restarts, Farrell explained, the complexion of the days at the library will change, as it will host toddler programs in the morning and will then be swarmed with schoolchildren in the afternoon. The staff takes pride in making children feel that the library is their second home, and that they can go there anytime to feel safe, learn and have fun.
Though many locals knew of the library’s historical status before the designation, Merenda hopes that having the plaque there for people to read will help spread the word about the library—past and present.
“I think [the library] should be a point of pride in the community because it shows, historically, that Westbury has cared for its children in a very unique and special way,” said Merenda, a tradition she is committed to continuing for generations of future children who come knocking at the library’s door.