Author Archives: Ben Himmelfarb

Ben Himmelfarb

About Ben Himmelfarb

Ben Himmelfarb holds master’s degrees in Information Science and History from the University at Albany, SUNY. He works as a Librarian I at the White Plains Public Library where he is responsible for the White Plains Collection and local history programming. Ben is committed to sharing and preserving alternative historical voices and the stories of people generally absent from mainstream narratives. He also makes music, writes poetry and fiction, and loves working at the reference desk. His research interests include urban renewal, social justice movements, and Dutch colonial history.

My First Year As A Local History Librarian


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2015-12-12-ScannersIn mid-October, I marked my first anniversary as the “local history librarian” at the White Plains Public Library. Four years earlier, I was a library clerk at an urban public library trying to figure out how to make a job out of my seemingly varied interests. I liked direct service, helping people, but I also valued more solitary, research driven work. I knew Intellectual freedom and a progressive, supportive community were a necessary part of any job I might hold, but I did not want to obtain a PhD or set out on my own for the wilds of self-employment. I knew I loved education, but I didn’t want to be a teacher. So the world has another librarian.

Through a friend, I began working at Albany Public Library as a Library Clerk and found the public library united my passions for working with people and knowledge in a democratic, autonomous space. Librarians can be educators without being constricted by the bureaucracy that comes with teaching. Librarians can also be historians, but don’t have to work within the traditional academic or museum systems, where publishing requirements or institutional obligations can take up lots of time. Attracted as I am to intellectual autonomy and the propagation of alternative historical voices, working as a local history librarian looked like a perfect opportunity to see if I could manifest some of these values. Continue reading

Urban Renewal In The Pruyn Collection of Albany History


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xfn00032Albany Public Library joined New York Heritage, a statewide digital library, in the spring of 2014 to raise awareness of its collections. The library’s Pruyn Collection of Albany History is a treasure trove of information about the leaders, citizens, buildings, governments, events, and history of New York’s capital city. The collection includes documents about urban renewal, the South Mall construction, city and state government, and African American history.

Albany Public Library’s digital collection on New York Heritage contains a small sample of our local history holdings. The full Pruyn Collection includes thousands of books, photographs, city directories, newspapers, documents, census records, city council minutes, maps, and more. We invite you to visit the Pruyn Collection of Albany History, which is housed at Albany Public Library’s Main Library at 161 Washington Avenue. Continue reading