September 18, 2017

Ben Himmelfarb | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Educators

Ben Himmelfarb


Local History Librarian, White Plains
Public Library, NY


MLIS, University at Albany, State University
of New York, 2014


Guitar and zazen meditation


Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Local History Hero

Creative collaboration is Ben Himmelfarb’s specialty. While still early in his career, Himmelfarb has “made…our local history collection come alive for the community,” says Kathleen Degyansky, White Plains PL assistant director. Through monthly local history roundtables, Himmelfarb connects the community on topics such as urban renewal and affordable housing, bringing together people with divergent views and leading them in productive conversation, says library director Brian Kenney. The latter roundtable drew the notice of the mayor’s office and the City Planning Department, as well as bringing in a large public audience.

Himmelfarb has “gone far beyond just collecting and preserving the historical documents of White Plains,” says Kenney. People and Stories, an oral history project he spearheaded, “amplifies the voice of people previously unheard” in the community, including older residents, recent immigrants, and “[the city’s] significant African American community,” says Kenney.

The interviews are run by community members trained by Himmelfarb, who says, “It feels great to empower people with the tools and expertise to do their own work.”

The project led to a new partnership with Girls Empowered Through Meaningful Support (GEMS) at the local YWCA. The GEMS received their training and then began interviewing “alums” of GEMS, including some of the group’s founders. According to Himmelfarb, “Working with the GEMS is a good reminder to ‘show, not tell,’ that studying history and creating new narratives can be fun and powerful.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Integrate Multiple Literacies Into Your Strategic Plan and Library Initiatives
The editors of Library Journal and School Library Journal have convened some of today’s leading advocates, thinkers, and doers on literacy programming in public libraries, including speakers from the March 2017 Public Library Think Tank in Miami, to discuss in actionable terms how public librarians are redefining literacy. Our Literacy Redefined online course will address literacy in its widest sense—digital, media/information, civic, reading readiness, visual, multicultural, and health literacy—and will identify tools for leveraging partnerships to fuel programming and funding.


  1. Mariel Perez says:

    Congratulations Ben!

  2. Abebe Rorissa says:

    Congratulations Ben! We are all proud of you!