Our Neighbor: Rivertown Resident and Warner Library Director Maureen Petry Retires
By Linda Viertel—
Sleepy Hollow resident and highly respected Warner Library Director Maureen Petry retired in late June to begin a new chapter in her rivertown life. Petry had been director since 2009, accomplishing many of her community goals based on a rich and lengthy experience in multiple library settings.
Educated at the Pocantico Hills Central School District starting in 1964, she recalled her long bus ride on a dirt road every day, her joy in swimming in the school’s new pool and, if students did all their lessons, how they were allowed to go skating during lunch time. She graduated from the Tarrytown Union Free School District (TUFSD) High School in 1977, and from Skidmore College in 1981. Her first job was in investment banking – dealing with a consortium of Swiss banks, but after her second child was born, she sought a more manageable family lifestyle and went to Queens College for her library science degree. While working at her first library position, at Pace University’s former Hayes Library in White Plains she helped students take advantage of tuition reimbursement from local businesses.
“I was able to mentor and help many students, who were the first in their families to go to college and get their college degrees,” she recalled.
Her next stop was as Children’s Librarian at the North Castle Library, where she stayed for 15 years, then as Research Librarian for two more years. “Seventeen happy years,” she noted.
Starting in 2009 at Warner, one of her first concerns was to promote “having the community use the building to its best advantage,” which meant infrastructure and structural improvements to the aging but storied library. A new roof was a necessity, as was bringing up-to-date audio-visual systems into all the community rooms. She renovated the gallery with changing exhibits and made “infrastructural changes that helped the community utilize the library to a fuller extent,” she said. That required bringing in high power wi-fi and adding electrical outlets, since residents often come to Warner to charge up their computers during storms when they have lost power.
Petry reinforced and created new programs that welcomed the community through eclectic and substantive programming, a highlight of her tenure. Her goal was to offer programs that were made accessible to everyone in a community with a wide diversity of interests.
“For those with elevated interests, we added author visits and poetry readings. Utilizing the wide variety of talent within our own community, we wanted to welcome them at Warner and include everyone we could. I wanted to make what our neighbors had to offer available to all,” she said.
The Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) continued to offer basic English language and citizenship classes. English as a Second Language (ESL) conversation groups were enhanced and Literacy Volunteers, which existed at Warner for 45 years, became more robust during her leadership.
Wednesday afternoon showings of recently released and Oscar-nominated movies has become a popular new program, especially at Oscar time when intense discussion ensues after each viewing.
Petry noted that “being responsive to our community was easy because it was so supportive. Being open to everyone’s ideas who were willing to present, and volunteer made the job easy and really pleasurable,” she explained.
She was quick to compliment Warner’s creative and enthusiastic board plus the support from both villages: “Tarrytown’s and Sleepy Hollow’s village administrators and mayors were great bosses too,” she added. “Working with a supportive board and elected village officials helped make the library a successful rivertown institution for all.”
When asked about Warner Library’s future, she says she hopes there will be continuing renovations to the interior to enhance the library experience. Petry affirmed, “The community loves the building; both villages treasure it and want to see it cared for properly.”
Petry wishes Warner’s new librarian well. “Whoever takes on the responsibility has a lot going for them in terms of community,” she said. “It will be a chance to build for the next generation and to have their vision realized in conjunction with the board as the library rebuilds after COVID which has changed so much of life.”