The Library That Ruth Built


With the current reopening of our Main Branch of the public library, another significant event concerning the library has occurred in the sudden death in December of Ruth Klement, longtime branch head at the Lakeville Branch. The sadness and shock of those of us who knew Ruth and who use the Lakeville branch is immeasurable, for she was truly the “architect” of the Lakeville Branch, both in spirit and in its function.

Ruth embodied all the fine qualities that you would hope for in a manager and an educator: vision, organization, concern for others (both patrons and her employees), enthusiasm for her work and pride in the branch and its accomplishments. She was fiercely committed to making the Lakeville Branch the best it could be and tenaciously advocated for complete, multi-use services for her constituency. Though the branch is small in size, Ruth always seemed to make its importance and scope seem large and worthy of attention. Through her words, actions and example, Ruth worked to “construct” a library that would meet the needs of the community that she served. In her interactions with patrons, Ruth demonstrated a kindness and patience that built a culture of accessibility and acceptance—making everyone feel that the library was their special place.

In a recent meeting of the library’s Branch Committee, there was discussion of identifying a way in which to commemorate Ruth’s extraordinary contribution to the Great Neck Library and, in particular, the Lakeville Branch. I sincerely hope that these commemorative efforts will include maintaining and enhancing the many services that Ruth pioneered at the Lakeville Branch—honoring her tireless efforts to bring quality, variety and meaningful programming to a library that she built and nurtured.

—Ellen Dressner

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