Sunday, November 28, 2021

Person of the Week

Kathy Bonomi: RSVP Please!


Essex Library Board of Trustees President Kathy Bonomi wants to know what residents really think about their library. Photo courtesy of Kathy Bonomi

Essex Library Board of Trustees President Kathy Bonomi wants to know what residents really think about their library. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Bonomi)

Kathy Bonomi is looking for some answers. Kathy, president of the Essex Library Board of Trustees, is eager for Essex residents to respond to the brief community survey that is part of the Essex Library’s strategic planning process.

The short questionnaire covers both how people have used the Essex Library and what they would like to see the library focus on going forward. The goal of the present planning process is to chart a path for the next five years.

The survey can be found online by clicking the appropriate link on the library’s web page ( or by picking up the form at the library.

“The plan is a way to look ahead to the future, to life after COVID, to best align the needs of the community with the services the library can provide,” Kathy says. “The survey only takes about five minutes to fill out.”

There will also be a Zoom focus group on Thursday, May 13 at 7 p.m. for community residents to express their ideas. A link to register for the focus group is also on the library web page.

Essex resident Patty Dowling, who heads her own company, Dowling Coaching and Consulting, has been working with the library on the strategic plan and will moderate the Zoom discussion.

At the moment, the library is open to patrons for 20-minute visits. Executive Director Deb Smith anticipates that the library will be open without time limits on Wednesday, May 19, the date Governor Ned Lamont has announced for the ending of all COVID restrictions with the exception of indoor masking.

Kathy and her husband, journalist Sam Tanenhaus, who was the editor of the New York Times Book Review for more than a decade, moved to Essex from their longtime home in Tarrytown, New York, after he retired five years ago.

“We looked at our lives and realized we no longer needed to be in Westchester,” she recalls.

The weather played an unanticipated role in their decision to move to Essex. The couple were driving home from visiting Kathy’s mother on Cape Cod during a heavy snowstorm. Kathy recalled an earlier visit to Essex and suggested spending the night at the Griswold Inn rather than driving on in the bad weather. She describes the enchantment of seeing a snowy Essex Main Street.

The next step after the night’s rest was easy: Why not look for a house in Essex?

“We bought the eighth house we saw,” Kathy says.

At the time she was still working as a film programmer for the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York, but much of job could be done at home. The center presents not only independent and foreign language films, but also concerts and author talks. Kathy particularly recalls arranging a talk by Joyce Carol Oates on boxing, a sport in which the well-known author has an ongoing interest.

Though she had worked at the film center for some two decades, Kathy’s position at Jacob Burns did not survive pandemic cutbacks. Instead, she is busy in Essex. In addition to her library work, she attends two local French classes, one given through the Ivoryton Library, which has continued to meet through the pandemic on Zoom, and another Zoom conversation class moderated by Chester resident Richard Holloway.

At Smith College, Kathy majored in theater. A dynamic theater teacher at high school in Irvington, New York, had influenced her choice of major. Her college experience was, at the time, far from traditional. After two years, she took a year off; she went to Paris on her own.

“My parents freaked out,” she recalls.

She studied mime with a well-known teacher Etienne Decroux, a performer noted for his more natural style in contrast to the classic white-faced artists like Marcel Marceau.

After four months, Kathy returned to New York; she took acting classes and worked for a business that imported perfume bottles from France, a job she got because she could speak French.

Kathy returned for her final two years at Smith, but again did it her own way: She lived off campus. She went on to study for a master’s degree in art history at New York University.

After college and graduate school, one of the jobs Kathy got was with a talent and casting agent. It was a key experience, but not because she got an acting role. Instead, she realized that acting was not the right profession for her.

“So very few people succeed and it can be all about luck or connections,” she says.

She did research and editing work in New York and then took time off to be with her then five-year-old daughter, now grown and living in Philadelphia.

A short time before moving to Essex, Kathy and Sam started reading aloud together in the evening. Usually, they have both a fiction and a non-fiction book in progress. They had always enjoyed reading the same books individually and then discussing them. The idea to read aloud, Kathy explains, just seemed to evolve.

“It wasn’t a decision; just an organic thing that happened, a way of spending some quiet time,” she says.

The first book they read was E.M. Forster’s Howards End after seeing a four-part television series based on it.

Kathy is eager to have a robust response to the library survey for the strategic plan.

“It’s an opportunity for people to tell us how they feel about library services,” she says. “It’s the way we can serve the community better.”

To access the survey for the strategic plan, go to the Essex Library web page Survey forms can also be picked up at the library.

A link to register for the Zoom Community Forum on May 13 at 7 p.m. is also on the library web page. Click on strategic planning focus group.

Rita Christopher is the Senior Correspondent for Zip06. Email Rita at

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