By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY What makes Jean Scott’s 45-minute commute from Sparrowbush to Jeffersonville worth it?
The chance to lead the busy Western Sullivan Public Library (WSPL).
And the hills of western Sullivan County suit Scott far more than the suburban sprawl of New Jersey, where she once endured a daily 75-mile trip to work.
“New Jersey is a very stressful place, a very congested place,” she relates.
The libraries in Jeffersonville, Narrowsburg and Callicoon where she’s been the director now for a month are the exact opposite.
“This is just an incredible opportunity, because I have three libraries,” she exults.
Their setting isn’t bad, either.
“I’m a lakes and mountains and forests kind of girl,” Scott admits, smiling. “It’s just my thing.”
Indeed, she lives on 12 acres “deep, deep, deep in the woods” of Orange County’s Sparrowbush, not far from Port Jervis, with her two Corgis, Shorty and Chloe, and two cats, Beggar and Friskie.
A self-acknowledged lover of learning, Scott has spent her entire professional career with libraries.
Possessing a master’s in library science from Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus, a master’s in business administration from Fairleigh-Dickinson and a master’s in professional development from Seton Hall, Scott has been a librarian with various public, law and academic libraries (including at Seton Hall).
“I worked in the school library in junior high,” she recalls. “It’s genetic.”
Scott even has teaching certification. Though she’s never taught nor worked in public school libraries, she’s helped thousands upon thousands of people learn more about the world around them.
“I think the written word is extremely powerful,” she says, noting that even today’s digital age has not eliminated the need for competent readers.
She doesn’t fear the rise of e-readers, either.
“I’ve lived through ‘the death of the book’ twice,” Scott relates, remembering the ultimately unfulfilled predictions about ultrafiche’s and CDs’ impacts on the printed word.
Neither proved as convenient as books, she points out.
And try dropping e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook the fall could destroy their sensitive circuitry.
“Anything electronic has more extraordinary needs than a book,” Scott assesses.
Not that she’s stuck in any kind of a rut.
“It’s important to stay on the cutting edge of technology, even if the technology doesn’t last,” she affirms. “... I think that’s part of our obligation to the community.”
She’s proud of WSPL’s computing capabilities, offering up-to-the-minute education, classes and free Internet access. Even e-readers are supported through an online portal via the Ramapo-Catskill Library System.
Working with a $600,000 budget, WSPL’s offerings are provided by a staff of 14 (half full-time, half part-time) and a dozen dedicated volunteers, all of whom have Scott’s admiration.
Indeed, they are the library system’s lifeblood.
“I think one of the most important things we do is reach out to the community,” she explains. “... We go the extra mile.”
Scott is looking to build on that legacy of service, especially at the Delaware Free branch in Callicoon.
“I see so many opportunities at the Callicoon branch,” she acknowledges.
She envisions the upstairs Masonic room becoming library office space, expanding the reading areas down below, with the floors connected by a long-needed elevator.
Even the former bank building’s vaults necessary structural supports which currently serve as storage closets may soon be turned into a café and book sale area.
Both the Jeffersonville and Tusten-Cochecton branches, however, are not forgotten. As evidence, Scott simply points to WSPL’s crowded calendar, with events listed for at least one branch nearly every day of the week.
“We’re doing oral histories, more in genealogy, sharing our resources,” she says. “A library is more than just books.”
For her and arguably the entire WSPL district, “libraries are the jewel in the crown” of communities.
That’s what attracted her to apply for the vacant directorship this summer an attitude that also got her hired in October.
“She’s wonderful!” says Pam Reinhardt, WSPL’s board president. “She’s energetic, enthusiastic and brings a wealth of experience.
“Her maturity and her previous experiences have exposed her to so many aspects of what goes on in the library.”
That experience is why Scott’s confident WSPL’s three libraries will continue to exist and thrive.
“We’ve become the general store, the five-and-dime, the church where people used to gather but don’t anymore,” she explains.
To find out more, visit the libraries in person or at www.wsplonline.org.