WESTFIELD, NJ — After 17 years, Phil Israel, director of the Westfield Memorial Library, has announced his retirement. His official retirement date is June 1, but his last day at the library will be in late April as he uses some accrued time off.

Following his graduation from Montclair State University, Israel was alerted to a job opening in the media department at the Rutgers University library that served Douglass and Cook campuses, and began his career. While working at Rutgers, he completed his master's in library science.

Israel joined the Westfield Memorial Library as director in September 2003, and mentioned a number of upgrades as points of pride over his tenure at the library.

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“About 13 years ago, we undertook a major renovation to the library, and over the years we’ve updated the circulation and cataloging system,” said Israel. “We’ve added solar panels and nearly all of our lights are now LED.”

Israel, however, doesn’t take all the credit for the ongoing success of the library.

“I want to emphasize that although I’m the ‘figurehead’ of the library, all the success we’ve had over the years is really due to the staff, from our incredible custodians to the circulation desk and everyone else,” Israel said. “They’re so dedicated, and knowing I could count on everybody has made things so much easier for me. Whenever we roll out something new, it’s a challenge. We want to make sure it’s good right out of the box.”

Israel also includes the Friends of the Westfield Memorial Library, the Library Board of Trustees and the Westfield Historical Society as invaluable supports during his career in Westfield.

“The Westfield Memorial Library is a treasured institution in Westfield, and Phil has played a large role in ensuring its success over the past 17 years,” said Library Board President Michelle Habayeb. “We all wish him the same success in his future endeavors.” 

Though Israel is moving on, he knows that the library will continue to change with the times.

“The library just finalized a four-year strategic long-range plan, which will be posted on the website soon,” Israel said. “The plan lays out a lot of changes for the library, including increased technology and modernization, as well as plans to reduce the size of the collection and repurpose parts of the building for more current uses, like a makerspace location and potentially small group meeting rooms.”

Israel said he and his wife look forward to traveling, spending time at the Jersey shore, and just relaxing with a good book.

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