March 16, 2018

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Himmelfarb has “gone far beyond just collecting and preserving the historical documents of White Plains,” says Kenney.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.



  1. Mariel Perez says:

    Congratulations Ben!

  2. Abebe Rorissa says:

    Congratulations Ben! We are all proud of you!