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Ossining Librarians Leave Lasting Legacy

OSSINING, N.Y. — Before Kindles, iPads and even home computers, Ossining's Sally Dow went to work as a librarian. This week, Dow, 76, is set to retire from the Ossining Public Library after nearly 50 years of service in libraries around New York.

"About 10 years ago I was thinking it might be time to retire, but we were just about to move and expand and it was too exciting to stop," Dow said, referring to the opening of the new Ossining Public Library in 2007. "I wanted to see this completed. And now that I have, I think it's the best thing that's happened to Ossining."

Dow previously worked for New York City Public Libraries and was appointed to the American Library Association's Newbery Committee before heading to Westchester in March 1981. Dow worked with the Briarcliff Manor Public Library before heading to Ossining. After more than three decades, Dow said the area is in a much better place than when she arrived.

"Not just better, but much, much better," she said. "We've quadrupled in size, and the population has changed completely to accommodate so many different families from so many backgrounds. The people here are wonderful."

Many have predicted that libraries would crumble with new technologies, but Dow said she has seen just the opposite.

"That was the fear for a long time, that nobody was going to need libraries," she said. "But people don't just come to read books. They come for programs, for those connections, to be social. And a lot of people come because they don't have the space or the resources like we do."

Ossining Librarian Judy Sagat, who worked with Dow for more than 25 years, said the library was lucky to have Dow, who also helped the library obtain many grants over the years.

"She has the uncanny ability to recognize an individual's strengths," Sagat said. "She's a wonderful mentor. She's created an atmosphere where everyone comes in smiling."

Sagat is also retiring this week after 44 years in children's libraries. Village of Ossining Mayor William Hanauer gave proclamations last week declaring June 19 as Sally Dow Day and June 20 as Judy Sagat Day.

Librarian Marci Dressler said it would be difficult to fill Sagat's shoes.

"She's an energizer bunny and has created so many fantastic programs that she's known as Mother Goose around town," Dressler said. "When she told me she was leaving, I started to cry."

Sagat said she would miss the staff and working with the community every day.

"There is nothing like looking into the eyes of a child and knowing you've reached them," she said, promising to return to help with programs. "I can't let that go."

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