Vicki Ingrassia retires Friday after 23 years of service to the Katonah Village Library.
Ingrassia, a native of Briarcliff Manor, moved to Katonah in 1980 with her husband and raised three children, all of whom graduated from John Jay High School. She started as an assistant librarian in 1988, and began her master’s program in library science at Southern Connecticut University. She took over as chief children’s librarian in 1990, finished her degree, and has overseen the ground-floor reading sanctuary for kids ever since.
Ingrassia witnessed the evolution of the library’s use—from the days when entire elementary school classes would visit to research book reports to an increasingly younger population inhabiting the solarium, the creation of which was her idea over 15 years ago.
We sat down with Ingrassia as she was packing up her desk on Thursday to ask about her career at the library and what the next chapter (pun intended) of her life holds.
Patch: Why has the population of children using the Katonah Village Library grown younger?
Ingrassia: It was partly due to a push in library science some years back, when researchers started talking about the benefits of reading to babies. It took off in the field, and now parents are more aware that reading to their kids earlier is good for them.
I remember thinking it was radical when we launched a storytime for two-and-a-half year olds—now most of our energy is devoted to doing programs for preschoolers, like baby lap time and Mother Goose storytime. It’s great to have so many making the literacy connection.
Patch: Do you still see grade-school kids?
Ingrassia: Not as much. Schools don’t assign reference projects or book reports as much—and when they do, kids are using computers at school to find information. And the school curriculum is much more structured. But we still host after school programs for elementary kids, and in the summer we make a big push for our summer reading game. Then we concentrate on trying to get to know the kids and keep them engaged.
Patch: What will you miss about working here?
Ingrassia: I’ll miss storytimes and being with the kids the most. They’re so sweet. And one of the best parts about my job has been hosting book groups. Last year I had one of the best I’ve ever had—a fourth through sixth grade group which turned out to be all boys. I’m always surprised at their insights into books—and how they really get to the meat of it, and how well they discuss ideas. I always walk away with a new understanding of the book.
Patch: Do you try to guide the reading choices of kids when they come into the library? What if all they want to read is Captain Underpants?
Ingrassia: Well, that’s OK. For book groups I make the choices, and I try to pick older books or a brand-new book they haven’t read yet. The boys read a lot of Gary Paulsen. But we do buy books they want to read, and hope that if they read and enjoy a book here maybe they’ll go on to something else. You have to respect their choices, but when you do recommend something and it engages someone, the best way to whet their appetites is word of mouth. So I tried to get to know children, and I could say, ‘I just had another girl your age read this, and she really liked it.’
Patch: How do you decide what books to buy for the library?
Ingrassia: I read a lot of magazines and reviews and go online, I get to know clientele here and what they like. Also, I have not been able to pass up a truck, train, dinosaur book!
Patch: What’s something about your career here that others may not know?
Ingrassia: I rescued Tina the Turtle when she was just a baby. We were closing up the library one night and found a shoebox with a little lizard and a baby turtle. The box had a note that said ‘Dear Librarians, Please keep my pets for me, because my mother won’t let me.’ And we did.
Tina has been here for 19 years, and as she’s grown so have her tanks. We started with a 10-gallon tank on the window sill and when she outgrew that, we bought a 20-gallon. Now she’s in a 50-gallon tank. She had pneumonia once, and I gave her medical injections for two weeks—I never thought I’d do that in my lifetime. She’s a part of the library now.
Patch: What are your retirement plans?
Ingrassia: Well, I’ll be spending more time with my four grandchildren—taking care of the two that live here a few days a week. My husband, he’s been retired for ten years now and he’s always smiling—so I plan to find out what that is all about. I also love to garden and play tennis.
But I’ll miss the library and my friends here. It’s really been a dream job for me—everything I really enjoyed, I got to do at work, and it didn’t even seem like a job—it seemed like a pleasure. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many people in the community and new families when they come to town. And I was lucky to be in a town where there is lots of support for the library.