Things are looking up for our library! After losing a head librarian earlier this year, and having been rescued by a former head librarian, we now have our own permanent director–and what a find she is! Julie Styles comes to us from a rich professional background, most recently from the Hartford Public Library; before that she served in various other institutions and in various other capacities, learning all aspects of her trade. She brings that accumulated expertise to us.
Julie was drawn to Suffield because our Kent Memorial Library is “the right size.” It is neither tiny, as some in more rural environments can be, nor vast, as city libraries can be. Because the search process was well managed, she feels she was well informed about the needs and challenges ahead for her and for members of the staff, whom she describes as excellent: both highly professional and devoted to their work.
The first thing Julie plans to do is listen and learn. She is not a believer in quick changes, but prefers a slower, more thoughtful approach to her work and to new leadership opportunities. As she said, she needs to get to know Suffield’s library users and also its non-users. The “feel” of the town and its expectations will provide background for decision making when the need arises. Because personal connections are important, she will be out and about in the weeks ahead, meeting people and asking questions.
Libraries have undergone massive changes in the last decade or two, mostly because of technology. Julie points out that libraries today are not just buildings to house books; modern librarians help people find information, understand it and assess its quality. Of course books are still important, but they can be accessed in more than one way. Many readers prefer books in print, but many others read online. The library can help in either way, and can also provide the use of database subscriptions with specialized information that can be shared.
Librarians spend more time and energy than we realize in making decisions about acquisitions. They have many resources to help in the process: reviews, information from publishers, requests from the public, and suggestions from professional journals. Every selection is a careful one, every choice is made for a reason. There is limited room on the shelves, so only books of good quality are considered; the on-going process is a major function of the staff.
In addition to its resources as an information provider, our library has a multitude of other programs that benefit the community. A glance at the website demonstrates what is available. Since we don’t have a community center, in many ways the library has stepped forward to fill that need. It’s pretty remarkable that despite a limited number of staff members, a limited budget, the burdens of COVID, and changes in leadership, our library has managed to do so much for so many. Our new director inherits quite a treasure.
Julie Styles is an outgoing person, warm and friendly, and genuinely eager to listen to visitors and patrons. She foresees liaisons with other organizations in town–with the schools, for instance–and she looks forward to meeting those who might be interested in exploring options. She says with a smile that her door is open. Her office, at the bottom of the stairs in our library, is easy to find. Even a brief conversation will demonstrate that Suffield is fortunate to have found Julie for the pivotal position she now occupies!