This is Pat Wester, 2023 RPL Foundation Gala Honoree
Updated: Feb 20
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Rutherford Public Library
For twenty-five years, Pat Wester has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Rutherford Public Library is supported and able to thrive in an ever-changing world. After volunteering her time and taking on leadership roles within the Friends of the Library, she and Anne McCormack co-founded the Rutherford Public Library Foundation. Pat's years of dedication to the Rutherford Public Library Foundation and the Rutherford Public Library will be recognized at this year's Library Gala.
TIR: Many years ago, you became a member of the Friends of Library as a way to give back to the library and your community. After that you were appointed to the Library Board of Trustees and chosen as the President. Why has it been important for you to be part of both the Friends of the Library and the RPL Foundation?
Pat Wester: The Friends do a wonderfully effective job of fundraising directed toward children’s programming and events. These activities are so important because they are the way that many families are first introduced to the library, myself included. Years ago, when my daughters were young, we were active participants and benefitted greatly. The experience I had with Jane Tarantino (head of Children’s Department) and her team was always so positive. They were knowledgeable, always helpful and welcoming. I felt such a strong sense of community there. So, when I was asked to join the Friends and then was appointed to the Library Board, I was thrilled because I loved the Library and was happy to be involved.
The Foundation was established by the Library Board of Trustees to help fund larger capital projects that might otherwise not be possible. Funding has been a growing challenge for all libraries, and we wanted to be proactive in addressing this. Anne McCormack, a former Trustee for 14 years+ and I were co-founders and the Foundation has grown and been effective in fundraising; notably for a major renovation at the Library and we will be helping to fund a Teen Space next!
"A gentle, soft spoken woman, Pat has the ability to motivate people to work hard for the success of our library. For all the work and time Pat put into developing The Library Foundation she deserves this long overdue recognition. There are not enough accolades to praise Pat for the time, effort and Sundays spent in creating the Foundation. I am so proud of Pat Wester and so lucky to call her my dear friend. Congratulations Pat, I love you!" explained Anne McCormack, Director Emeritus.
TIR: You have been credited for your extensive efforts to continuously develop and fund important projects to further enhance the Library and what it is able to offer to the community. What are some of the most important changes and improvements you have seen take place over the last two decades?
PW: The Library staff has always been amazing; the talent is there; they know what they are doing, and what was needed, and it was really matter of getting the right leadership in place!
One of the areas I’m most proud of is leading the search committees for the hiring of three Directors over the years. Jane Fisher was the first Director hired and did a great job with the library team in moving us in a new direction and advancing the technology available for our community. Jane was here for 5 years; we then hired Judah Hamer, who did a tremendous job in taking us further! Shortly after he started, Judah managed the relocation of the Children’s Department from the lower to the upper level. This was fiscally necessary, but, understandably, an unpopular decision within our community. Judah worked tirelessly with the Board to address the challenges and the move went smoothly, and effectively. He also oversaw the major renovation done several years ago that transformed our library into a beautiful, more functional and efficient space. He also advanced our technology and programming so that we remained at the forefront. Judah was very actively engaged with our community organizations and leaders, which is critical. We hired our current Director, Gretchen Corsillo, toward the end of my term, and she has been leading the team for over two years now. She has been working with the Board to develop a strategic plan and is working on the planning for the renovation of the teen space!
"I am thrilled to be recognizing Pat at this year’s gala. Pat was on the Board of the Public Library when I joined and her knowledge of, and passion for the library blew me away then and continues to do so now. It was an honor to work with her there and at the Foundation where her commitment was just as strong. Pat truly understands how an important a thriving library is to a community and works hard to spread that passion to others," explained Wendy Armacost, Foundation Board of Director member.
TIR: Your amazing commitment to the Library and the Library Foundation will be formally recognized on the Library Gala on March 25th. How do you feel about receiving this honor?
PW: I’m very grateful to be honored; it gives me an opportunity to reflect on my experience and the remarkable people I’ve worked with over the years.
"Pat Wester is not only a tremendous asset to the Library, she is a tremendous asset to our entire community. Rutherford is truly lucky to have someone like Pat who generously donates her time and talents to make our Borough a great place to call home. I'm honored to play a small part in honoring such an amazing individual," Mark Goldsack, Treasurer of the Rutherford Library Foundation.
TIR: Why do you believe the RPL and its programming are important to our community?
PW: It’s critical because it provides a valuable resource and space that is accessible to literally everyone. Our library has continually evolved over the years to remain at the forefront in addressing the needs of our community.
RPL Director, Gretchen Corsillo, told TIR, "I'm thrilled to see the Foundation choose Pat Wester as this year's honoree. Although her time on the library board was winding down as I came on board, I could see her passion and commitment to the library immediately. It's rare to find such a dedicated volunteer for any cause, but the fact that she was so involved over the years with the board, Foundation, and Friends of the Library is truly impressive. RPL would not be the same without her years of hard work."
TIR: Are there any particular individuals you have worked with over the last twenty years that you would like to mention?
PW: Jane Tarantino – head of the Children’s department whose work and team inspired me to get involved in the first place. She has been here almost 52 years, which is incredible and has made a lasting impact on our community. We are very fortunate!
Jaime McCarthy- Library Counsel for 25+ years. Jaime was invaluable in helping to address major challenges and events through the years, from union negotiations, hiring of the new directors, establishing the Foundation and more. He was supportive and went above and beyond in his work for the Board and Library! Couldn’t have done it without him!
Anne McCormack - former Trustee and co-founder of the Library Foundation, also a dear friend and neighbor. Anne served for 14+ years and was a Trustee when I started. She is passionate about the library and a strong supporter. She cares deeply about our community. We worked together to get the Foundation started and she is an active supporter to this day. Anne is a true inspiration and I’ve been proud to work with her.
Judah Hamer - when Judah was Director, we made monumental progress in moving the Library forward. The 10 years Judah was here, were truly highlight years for me and I know many others who feel the same. He was a smart, charismatic ,strong leader who made a lasting effect on myself, the library staff and the Rutherford community.
Jimmy Rizzo - Jimmy, of BCB Bank has been the major supporter of the Foundation since it was founded. They are the main sponsor of our annual gala. Jimmy is a tireless, community leader who is passionate about giving back to the community. Since Jimmy was appointed to the Board and Foundation, he has inspired me to think differently in order to more effectively fundraise for the library; and to focus on community outreach and support other community groups, so that we are all working together toward our goals. He has an incredible work ethic and supports countless organizations; we are so fortunate to have him here!