She is the librarian’s librarian and one of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library’s longest-serving employees.
Throughout her 30 years at the East Setauket library, reference librarian Carolyn Emerson, 61, can find almost anything, her colleagues said. But it’s her involvement with the library and caring attitude that’s made her an intricate part of the library and the community, and that is why Times Beacon Record Newspapers selected her as a Person of the Year in 2015.
Every other Wednesday, this soft-spoken librarian has organized the library’s senior bus program, which transports residents who would otherwise be unable to make it to the library. Although she didn’t start the program, Emerson took it over to help these seniors.
She also used her position at the library and her knowledge of Three Village history to organize and create programs like last year’s Culper Spy Day, which paid homage to the community’s ties to spy rings during the Revolutionary War.
On June 20, 2014, the library held its first Culper Spy Day program, in which residents could learn about the Revolutionary War, the Culper Spy Ring and its ties to Long Island. Three Village Historian Beverly Tyler, of the Three Village Historical Society, helped organize the event and said Emerson established a user-friendly site to spread the word about the spy ring throughout the community.
“She’s a very community-oriented [person] and easy to work with,” Tyler said. “She really makes the library a good common resource for more than just books and videos, but also history.”
Her efforts to inform the community stemmed from a desire to share her vast array of knowledge with others and help those in need, those close to her said. And her hard work is not only for the bigger programs, but also for little tasks that accompany her title as a reference librarian in Emma S. Clark’s adult section.
“Whenever anybody comes up to the reference desk, she just gives it 110 percent,” said co-worker Jennifer Mullen, the public relations manager and community outreach librarian. “She doesn’t stop looking until she finds it either, and everybody appreciates that. She digs deep.”
Mullen met Emerson a little more than 10 years ago. They worked side-by-side as reference librarians. Now, Mullen works alongside Teen Services Librarian Nanette Feder, who also commended Emerson for her insight on art, local history and literature, and dedication to her work and the community members she serves.
Emerson’s husband, Mark Rothenberg, said his wife comes from a line of people who share her tenacity and need to give back to their community. Emerson’s mother was recognized for her work following Hurricane Andrew, building homes for storm victims. Her father, a psychiatrist who ran a family clinic, counseled families in the Miami area. While her parents did their part to actively help those around them, they encouraged a young Carolyn Emerson and her siblings to be compassionate and stand up for themselves and their beliefs, Rothenberg said.
Emerson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Despite the diagnosis, chemotherapy and surgery, Emerson remained resilient. She was cleared of cancer the following year and continued her work inside and outside the library.
“Many times, I’m in awe of her,” said Rothenberg, who works as the head of the Patchogue-Medford Library’s Celia M. Hastings Local History Room. “She’s been through a lot, including cancer.”
In addition to being a reference librarian, Emerson has also worked as a published poet. She has written poems in both English and French for publication. The librarian has also overseen poetry and book discussions at the library, which are a hit among residents, her coworkers said.
Mullen said Emerson acquired a large following for her evening book discussions and monthly poetry meetings. Her ability to listen appears to be one of Emerson’s many positive qualities that help further assist those who request her help.
While Feder didn’t pinpoint a specific moment illustrating Emerson’s character, she said, “It’s just how she works everyday at the library. She could be on a reference desk [or] helping a member of the library.”