BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Rhoda Gushue will miss the people of Bedford Hills the most.
Gushue, who has been director for 36 years and been with the Bedford Hills Free Library for 43 years, announced her retirement, effective at the end of the year.
“It’s time,” Gushue said simply.
Gushue moved to Bedford Hills from Boston in 1960, when her two sons were four and five. She became involved with the community, first joining the PTA and later getting involved with the library.
She was hired to be a librarian in 1970 and promoted to director in 1977.
Gushue is the longest serving director in the Westchester Library System.
“It was too good a job to refuse,” Gushue said. “I’ve been here ever since. It’s been rewarding.”
Turnover is rare in the small staff of the Bedford Hills Free Library. Gushue’s most recent hire was 22 years ago.
“We work very well together,” Gushue said.
In her years on the job. Gushue has seen libraries evolve with technology. People come into the library to use wireless internet, and many patrons download books onto their Kindles.
“You better change with the times,” Gushue said. “Our patrons tell us what they want. We either find it, have it, or do it.”
The library’s core mission of providing services to the community, particularly children remains.
“If you get a child reading at a young age, they are likely to be a reader for life,” Gushue said.
Through the years, Gushue has been a board member of the Bedford Hills Chamber of Commerce, Blue Mountain Housing Development Corp, the Bedford Town Housing Agency, and the Bedford Hills Historical Museum.
The library remains a regular meeting place for people in Bedford. Many patrons check in every week to chat with Gushue.
“We are a core part of the community,” Gushue said. “We’re a happy place.”
Gushue said she loves talking with her patrons. Being on the job for so long, she has seen little kids grow up and bring their own kids back to the library.
“That is so precious,” Gushue said. “They start out small and end up big. I still have a name attached to their face. It’s a real pleasure.”
During the economic downturn, libraries have become more popular. Gushue said since the recession the library has had record attendance. Unfortunately, funding has not met the demand.
“It’s difficult trying to do more with less,” Gushue said. “Hopefully we’ll get more funding as the economy turns around.”
Being director is a busy job and Gushue said she doesn’t know what awaits her when she comes into work. She usually has a list of things she’d like to get done, only for it get pushed back by the demands of running a library.
“You never know what questions someone might have or who needs help with what,” Gushue said.
Gushue said she will become a regular patron of the library once she retires, joking she hopes her former staff set aside books for her. She loves thrillers, mysteries and historical fiction and has a passion for jazz, regularly attending concerts in Fairfield and Westchester.
Elin Sullivan, co-president of the Bedford Hills Free Library said Gushue helped establish the library as the heart of the hamlet.
“She has enriched our community in countless ways,” Sullivan said.
A search for a new director will begin in September.
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