Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
There are many people who enjoy reading, but only a few who devour stacks of books with a speed and passion that simply beguiles their friends and family. Roberta Kaufman was one of those special readers. Scott Kaufman, her son, remembered his mother’s voracious appetite for literature. “She would go through these books, I mean, quicker than anything- I didn’t believe that she was reading them! But in fact, she did,” said Scott. Now, with the installation of the Roberta S. Kaufman Reading Room at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library, made possible by a donation by the Kaufman family, serious bookworms in the community have a destination to call their own.
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library held a dedication ceremony for the new reading room, attended by Bruce Kaufman, Roberta’s husband, her sons, Neil and Scott, and grandchildren Ruthie and Rachel, along with friends and colleagues from Roberta’s days teaching Spanish at Plainview-Old Bethpage High School. While it’s been many years since Roberta’s death, many members of the community turned out for the brief ceremony.
“It’s a real testament- 14 years later- that you all took time out of your schedules to come and share this with us, so thank you,” said Neil Kaufman.
For years, the Kaufman family donated funds for an annual scholarship at POBJFK High School in Roberta’s memory. However, as the years wore on, and the faculty and students whom Roberta had known during her tenure moved on to other things, the family decided to honor her in another way. Approximately two years ago, the family approached library director Gretchen Browne about giving a donation to the library, one of Roberta’s favorite places.
“I was so honored that he had called the library and spoken with me about continuing her legacy of education and her love of children in the community through the library,” said Browne. Browne herself was not familiar with Roberta Kaufman, but she said that once she brought up her name to the library staff, everyone seemed to have a story about the great Spanish teacher from the high school.
After discussing several possibilities with Brown, the Kaufmans decided that a reading room would be the best use of their donation. The Roberta S. Kaufman Reading Room is furnished with new, comfortable chairs. Furthermore, the chairs have “tablet arms” where library patrons can put down their books or laptops to study. So far, library users seem to like their comfortable new haunt. “The community just loves it,” said Browne.
“Roberta would have been extremely pleased with this reading room- she really would have,” said Bruce Kaufman. “She just had a passion for reading, and this just seems such a wonderful fit, and I’m glad it’s happening,” he said. Bruce also said that the other improvements that the library has undergone over the past decade were something to be proud of.
For the record, the library was only Roberta’s second-favorite place - her favorite, said Scott, was sitting by the pool, reading the “oodles of books” that she had taken out from the library.
In addition to the reading room, Roberta’s love of books lives on in other ways; Scott confided that while he was never a big reader as a child, his daughters definitely take after their grandmother. For his part, Neil recently had the experience of taking his son to the Plainview-Old Bethpage library for the first time, just as his mother used to take him. However, he did note that the 25-cent reward - the amount his mother used to give him for finishing a book - might need to be updated for the new era.