COLD SPRING HARBOR, New York, December 4
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Helen Crosson, the director of the Cold Spring Harbor Library for the last 15 years, has announced that she will be leaving the library she helped to build.
Starting the week of Jan. 12, 2015, Crosson will transition into the role of library director for the Half Hollow Hills Community Library.
“[The decision] turned out to be very emotional for all of us. This opportunity [at Half Hollow Hills] arose quickly,” Crosson, of Oyster Bay, said. “I’ve always said that leaving [Cold Spring Harbor] would only happen when I could do this again, and the Half Hollow Hills Community Library board has told me they are going to redo their main building.”
From her debut as director for Cold Spring Harbor in February 1999, Crosson took the library as it stood in 7,000 square feet at an old Goose Hill Road school building and turned it into the mansion-like institution that sits on 5 acres in Cold Spring Harbor State Park overlooking the water. The building, which she got approval to build from the state, is Crosson’s “greatest accomplishment to date,” she said.
But it wasn’t just her accomplishment, she added. The effort was that of a “we,” not “me” mentality, Crosson said, adding that she could not have done it without the support of the Cold Spring Harbor community, library board and its staff. With that, she’s been able to create longstanding relationships and the basis of her philosophy that she now hopes to bring with her to Half Hollow Hills.
“It’s about relationships, it’s about people, and I have a lot of relationships in this community all putting the library in their lives. They don’t just say, ‘Yes, I have a library’ – they say ‘I have a library and I’m part of why it’s so wonderful,’” Crosson said.
The process of building the Cold Spring Harbor Library, she said, was one done through a form of crowdsourcing. Crosson attended countless meetings, handed out legal pads and told residents to describe to her what it was they wanted their library to be. In response, she has helped produce a library that sees 6,000-8,000 people walk through its doors every month, on average, and has become an integral part of the community.
Now it’s time for Crosson to do the same in Dix Hills.
“Half Hollow Hills is a really vibrant place. They have a very impressive schedule of programs, an extremely learned and capable staff; the community has a history of supporting the library,” she said. “I have every reason to believe that this endeavor will be successful and therefore I decided to accept the challenge and leave something that I built.”
Diane Scinta, 15-year manager of Youth Services for the Cold Spring Harbor Library, will take over as interim director once Crosson leaves next week. Next month, Crosson starts the process of planning the reimagining of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library’s Dix Hills location, which sits at 55 Vanderbilt Parkway.
“Because of her energetic and innovative leadership, we think she will be an asset to the library,” Charlene Muhr, interim director for Half Hollow Hills, said of Crosson.
Katheryn Laible, program director for nonprofit Leadership Huntington, also praised Crosson, who sits on the Leadership Huntington board.
“Helen is bold, intelligent and resourceful,” she said. “The Cold Spring Harbor Library is a great example. Helen was instrumental to every aspect of the building’s development… She did so in a collaborative way that made it very specifically not Helen’s library, but the community’s living room… I look forward to seeing what she does in Half Hollow Hills.”
What Crosson will ultimately produce for Half Hollow Hills, not even she is sure of. But she doesn’t expect the aesthetics of the Cold Spring Harbor Library to carry over – she expects the remodeling to reflect the unique nature of the Half Hollow Hills community and its residents’ wants and needs.
One thing, however, she said, will remain consistent.
“What I do expect is the feeling you have in this space [at Cold Spring Harbor] of feeling welcomed, of feeling comfortable, of feeling like you want to stick around for a while – the feelings associated with the space are my dream, are my expectations,” she said. “What it will look like? It’s not my library… It will be whatever the residents of Half Hollow Hills want it to be.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, December 4, 2014; A2)