Observing the Eastchester Public Library Children’s Room

When I walked into the Eastchester Library children’s room in November, I was immediately welcomed by none other than Olaf, the snowman from Frozen. On the day of my visit, he was dressed as a turkey as part of a gratitude-themed Thanksgiving display on the inside of the opened front door (if you’re wondering, Olaf is thankful for Anna, Elsa, and warm hugs). Curious George, Yoda, Raggedy Ann, and others joined him to dance on the walls and welcome children into a space where everything is joyful, warm, and familiar. Many of the characters have been drawn or painted by the librarians themselves, whose extraordinary talents bring the characters alive.

Room by Room

Decorations like these are what make a children’s room just that: a space for children to feel at home. In fact, the three connected rooms that make up the children’s library are more residential-looking than they are institutional. The front room, through which you enter, contained the books for all the youngest readers (up to third grade) and the reference desk, as well as a small seating area near the picture books. Unfortunately, though, directly in front of me was a fireplace that stood right in the middle of the room across from the reference desk. It blocked the librarians’ view of what was happening in the seating area, which at the time included two toddlers jumping up and down on the couch. The librarian reprimanded them, but only after she was asked to do so by a concerned parent.

Through two wide doorways lay the second room, which housed nonfiction and fiction (third through fifth grade). This room also had a computer station with three computers that were blocked from the librarians’ view by a wall. The computers were unobtrusive and had no extra games or programs for the kids other than what can be accessed through the internet and ABCMouse. A quick peek at the nonfiction books revealed less than fifteen titles on technology as well. Clearly, then, digital literacy and digital information skills weren’t part of the library’s main educational focus.

The last room was a playroom containing large wooden tables, a LEGO area, and stuffed animals galore. Restricting the toys to this one space made sense for keeping the louder playing children separate from the others who wanted to read or ask questions of the librarians in the other room. The day that I visited, a cereal box stick puppet craft was held in the playroom on the big tables. The room was overcrowded and many children had to wait for others to finish before they could start on the craft. This was frustrating for the smaller children with little patience. Perhaps moving furniture, adding tables, or capping attendance would solve this problem: it would of course be better to do the former two, so as to not let the space constrain the library’s abilities to serve the community, but this may not be possible.

Suggestions for Improvement

Overall, I felt that the library’s set-up was efficient though old-fashioned in its deprioritizing of its digital aspects. Considering the great number of toddlers and elementary schoolers who use technology today, it’s important to teach them safe habits. However, this set-up does encourage stepping away from the screen, which is beneficial for children so young. My main suggestions for improving the library’s design would then be physical first: removing the fireplace in the center of the room (the librarians told me this hasn’t been done because of budget issues) and the wall blocking the librarians’ view of the computers would make it easier for the librarians to supervise what’s going on in all the different parts of the room if they’re at the reference desk.

Speaking of the reference desk, I found myself considering the movement to abolish the reference desk entirely (Luo, 2017). The desk can be seen from the hallway outside the children’s room and therefore easy to find. In the three hours of my observation, which were mostly after-school hours on a Tuesday, fifteen people came to ask questions, including one older man who was lost and needed help finding the adult history section. While I have read about this mostly in the context of academic libraries, I noticed that some of the shyer children had trouble approaching the monolithic desk to ask for help. However, it’s possible that roving reference paired with a smaller desk (as this was the main workstation for the librarians, it would be hard to eliminate altogether) may be less intimidating.

Though not perfect, I enjoyed my trip to the Eastchester Library Children’s Room in Westchester, NY. It may not have been the most modern of places, but it was clearly well loved by its patrons and I hope to return someday.


Luo, Lili (2017). Models of Reference Services. In Linda C. Smith and Melinda Wong (Eds.), Reference and Information Services: An Introduction (155-178). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

The Unflinching Archivist: Integrating Museum and Archival Practices using the Work of David Wojnarowicz


On October 4, 2018, NYU Fales Special Collections archivist Nicholas Martin hosted a tour and talk for library, art, and museum professionals and other information specialists about the ongoing exhibition at the NYU Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery. The exhibition highlighted the papers and work of artist, writer, AIDS activist, and photographer David Wojnarowicz (pronounced Voe-nah-ROE-vich). Wojnarowicz’s work incorporated multiple media that explored life in New York in the 1970s and 1980s from an outsider’s perspective, as well as confronted politics, morality, and his own diagnosis.

The Exhibition in Question

The exhibition at NYU, officially known as The Unflinching Eye: The Symbols of David Wojnarowicz, ran at the Bobst Gallery from July 12th to October 21st, 2018. It was staged in conjunction History Keeps Me Awake At Night, another show of the artist’s work that ran at the Whitney Museum of American Art from July 13th to September 30th. The NYU show featured photos, journals, and other objects separated into three major sections that showcased the creative breadth and symbolic depth of Wojnarowicz’s work as well as the way his personal relationships are reflected in his photography and his journals. The exhibition was coordinated by Nicholas Martin, with curatorial assistance provided by Hugh Ryan, Marvin Taylor, and Marcelo Yáñez.

Making Curatorial Decisions

During his tour, Martin spoke about the challenges of curating an artist’s work, both from the standpoint of honoring the artist’s legacy and from a logistical perspective. He explained that when staging a show, one of the most important questions an archivist asks is always, “What was the artist’s intent?” When the artist is no longer living (Wojnarowicz passed away in 1992), the archivist must make informed decisions about what to include and how to include it. Unfinished work can pose a problem – was this work even important to the artist? How do we know? One example of this is Wojnarowicz’s “Magic Box,” in which he collected a myriad of items, ranging from a Buddha sculpture to tweezers and nail clippers. It was never clear what the artist meant to do with these objects or how much he cared about them at all. Martin and his colleagues chose to disassemble the box for the exhibition, displaying it with its contents without making any assumptions about its purpose.

Logistical Obstacles

The “Magic Box” also contributed to the logistical concerns of the show, Wojnarowicz wasn’t thinking about long-term storage of his “Magic Box” items, but many of the objects within were made of materials that are harmful to each other and that present a challenge for archivists: should they store and show them altogether to preserve how they were found or separate them to preserve their physical integrity? Martin’s solution for the exhibition was to unpack the box and display everything together. In the archives, everything is also kept together and patrons are warned about handling procedures if they request to see the box.

Other conservation risks for Wojnarowicz’s work that Martin described included humidity and light levels, which can prove particularly dangerous for the artist’s printed photographs. The constraints of the NYU Gallery meant that Martin had to work with facilities management, installers, and contract curators to try to correct for the structural issues (ex. high light levels from large windows) as best he could. Overall, the exhibition took about 100 hours of preparatory conservation work.


I found Martin’s talk engaging and educational. Not only did I learn about David Wojnarowicz’s work, but I was finally able to understand all the moving parts of putting on an exhibition that lies at the intersection of art, archives, and museum practices. To be sure, there were challenges unique to this show, like the fact that it was a companion to the Whitney show and sometimes had to use facsimiles of items that were leant to the museum instead of the real thing. In general, however, Martin’s talk focused on issues universal to archival exhibitions and provided helpful insight into how to solve them. His discussion touched upon concerns that can be found in many foundational exhibition texts, like Organizing Exhibitions: A Handbook for Museums, Libraries and Archives by Freda Matassa.

In the future, I plan to explore archival practices from both sides of the equation, patron and curator. I hope to attend more exhibitions of this kind and, when talks aren’t available, I will try to analyze them myself to figure out what problems the curator may have faced in staging it. As a student, I hope to take classes in archival management and possibly even museum practices as well as apply for internships in this field to explore my interest in it and see if it’s something I want to pursue for my career.



Communications, N. W. (n.d.). NYU Presents Exhibition of David Wojnarowicz Papers, Coinciding with Whitney Museum of American Art Retrospective. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from http://www.nyu.edu/content/nyu/en/about/news-publications/news/2018/july/nyu-presents-exhibition-of-david-wojnarowicz-papers–coinciding-

David Wojnarowicz. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.visualaids.org/artists/detail/david-wojnarowicz

David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://whitney.org/Exhibitions/DavidWojnarowicz

Exhibition | The Unflinching Eye: The Symbols of David Wojnarowicz – News and Events. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://wp.nyu.edu/library-news/exhibition-the-unflinching-eye-the-symbols-of-david-wojnarowicz/

Matassa, F. (2014). Organizing Exhibitions : A Handbook for Museums, Libraries and Archives. London: Facet Publishing. Retrieved from https://login.ezproxy.pratt.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=969818&site=eds-live

Wharton, G., Engel, D., and Taylor, M. C. (2016). The Artist Archives Project: David Wojnarowicz. Studies in Conversation, 61, 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393630.2016.1181350