Over the last 47 years, Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; Watergate changed politics forever; the Berlin Wall crumbled; the Soviet Union dissolved; terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and Barack Obama became the first African American president. A smattering of history and yet, one unbroken, enduring thread woven throughout – the marriage of Fred and Vanne Cohen.
Married on June 16, 1968, in Miami Beach, Florida, the Cohen’s relationship has endured the test of time. Dr. Cohen and his bride moved to Jamestown in 1977, where he established a private practice in neurological surgery. For the next five years, the young couple lived and worked here, becoming part of the community. Early in 1982, however, they decided to return to their native Florida, to reunite with family. Nevertheless, their affection for Western New York, Chautauqua County, and Jamestown in particular, remained undiminished.
As their anniversary approached, Dr. Cohen mulled over ways in which to celebrate. Turning to a list of traditional gifts for inspiration, “books,” he discovered, were suggested for the 47th year. Capitalizing on the idea, he contacted Tina Scott, James Prendergast Library Executive Director. He expressed his desire to leave a long-lasting, beneficial gift, understanding the continuing value of educational, recreational, and research-oriented resources for the community.
After hearing his thoughts, Tina pointed him in the direction of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, an on-going partner in providing critical support to the library through its Fund for the Region. After consultation, he determined his anniversary surprise would be the establishment of the Fred L. Cohen and Vanne D. Cohen James Prendergast Library Fund. Said Dr. Cohen, “I only wish I had met my wife the day she was born instead of 23 years later because then we would have had 23 more years together. We hope in our small way to memorialize our love for each other by helping provide ‘books’ for Jamestown for as long as the library exists.”
The James Prendergast Library’s past history is fascinating, but more importantly, it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the future. As people and society become more dependent upon the Internet and personal telecommunications, the library strives to keep pace. Remaining a treasure trove for literature lovers, it has also found new life by providing access to technology and resources needed for personal enrichment and success in today’s world. Perhaps just as significantly, it fosters opportunities for companionship in a variety of group settings. Reflecting on the library, Tina said, “It is a central place (in the community); it is easy to get to; it has free parking, and it has spaces to meet, where people can spread out and relax.”
Not just a repository for books, the James Prendergast Library affords numerous programs for adults, teens, and children. Tina explained, “I tend to think books in the physical form won’t go away, but text books are going to go digital; ecologically, it’s more friendly. Moving forward, definitely things will be much more digital, much more interactive, and much more user involved.”
Along those lines, children and teens have the opportunity to enjoy summer reading groups, story times, crafts, game days, movies, and Lego Club. Special events, like “Hail the Heros,” connect a variety of agencies with children in a format, designed to give them a first-hand glimpse into “real world” occupations, local history, ecology, and so much more. Recently, for example, EMT’s shared life-saving skills, while staff from the Audubon brought nature “up close and personal” by transporting a live snake and turtle from the Center to share with the children.
Teens, liking their privacy, have specially designated locations within the library where they can meet, use computers or other forms of technology; participate in various youth-centered programs, or study. This summer, middle and high school students are benefitting from interesting materials and books designed to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning through a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
There are also numerous activities for adults. Many participate in the Thrifty Crafter, Camera, and Scrabble Clubs; daily book sales, and art exhibits. Of course, the library maintains a huge inventory of books – what would summer be without a good one to read? A 3-D printer is one of the newest and most exciting acquisitions making its debut. Three dimensional solid objects are made using an additive process, using a technique which lays down successive layers, until a tangible form is created. Two trained computer experts ready and able, by appointment, to assist patrons in bringing “life” to their special projects.
The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System’s “crown jewel,” James Prendergast Library is indeed a special place and will remain a valuable resource for years to come. For more information about the Fred L. Cohen and Vanne D. Cohen James Prendergast Library Fund or to make a donation to the Fund for the Region, visit crcfonline.org or call 661-3390.