New Rochelle Mayor Yadria Ramos-Herbert snaps a selfie with Jason Leonard, John Reverol and Council member Martha Lopez

New Rochelle Public Library Foundation Guardian Gala Celebrates the Freedom to Read

Award-winning authors Jacqueline Woodson and Emma Straub were among the honorees as the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation held its Guardian Gala on Thursday, May 9th at the Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle. Some 370 guests attended the glittering event, raising nearly $117,000 for the nonprofit NRPLF, which supports the city’s libraries.

NRPLF’s Guardian Award was presented to three champions in the fight against book banning: Authors Jacqueline Woodson and Emma Straub, and publisher Nancy Paulsen, President of Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Inc.

All three Guardian Award winners spoke passionately about the freedom to read and the dangers of book banning. Bestselling author and bookstore owner Emma Straub wrote about the event in her Newsletter, noting “Nancy has been publishing children’s books for decades and Jackie has been writing for decades and the two of them together are an incredible team. I felt truly honored to be with them. It was exceptional company.”

Also honored were Community Heroes Chris Selin, President of the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation for the past 9 years as well as a former member of City Council; Tom Geoffino, recently retired Director of the New Rochelle Public Library for the past 18 years; and Business Honorees Donna and Bob Young, who head up the Young Companies and the JRY Foundation. 

The Greentree Country Club was cleverly decorated with book art sculptures of peacocks that perched on the bar and nested on the dining tables; the concept came from committee member Liz Aiello. The festive evening included cocktails, dinner and dancing, with emcee Tony Aiello in charge of a program that included videos and award presentations.

The Guardian Gala Steering Committee included Chairperson Lynn Green, Liz Aiello, Amy Bass, Carmelina DiMarco, Leslie M. Demus, Judith Factor, Ally Gallin, Rachel Groh, Erin Harrell Riley. Lisa Itzkowitz, Haina Just-Michael, Theresa Kump Leghorn, Chris Selin, Tobe Sevush, Ellen Sonet,Anne Todd, Stephanie Tomei, Sharon Weekes and Mica Wilson.

The Guardian Gala was sponsored by the Cappelli Organization (Guardian Sponsor); Haven Capital and RXR (First Edition Sponsors); The City of New Rochelle, Masonry Depot and Chuck Burke and Jonathan Stark (Classic Novel Sponsors); Iona University, Northstar Properties, Montefiore New Rochelle, Ally and Tom Gallin Jr., and Lynn and Steven Green (Prose & Poetry Sponsors);  Barbara and Frank Axel, Judith Factor and Bob Wechsler, Tom Geoffino, Theresa Kump Leghorn and Tom Leghorn, Amy Paulsen, Nancy Paulsen, David Friend  and Sam Friend, Chris Selin and Jeff Endervelt, Ellen and Steve Sonnet and Takeform/Quorum Group (Book Lover Sponsors); and Apple Maintenance, Architectural Preservation Studio DPC, Creative Library Concepts, the Cutler Levy Family, George T. Davis Funeral Home, Mary Ann and Nick DeFeis, Leslie Demus and Ralph Dawson, Carmelina and Frank DiMarco, Linda Kelly Fauci and Peter Fauci, Ximena and Andrew Francella, Haina Just-Michael and Bernard Michael, Marianne and Bob Sussman, and Sharon Weekes (Hotspot Hero Sponsors).

The Guardian Award was created to recognize individuals whose careers and lifetime accomplishments exemplify the mission of public libraries: Providing free and open access to information and to a broad variety of ideas and viewpoints. Journalists Fareed Zakaria and Tom Goldstone were the first recipients in 2019.

For more information visit the NRPL website at