The role of the public library today is ever changing, complex and multi-faceted. We must find ways to meet the demands of a broad spectrum of user needs from infants and preschoolers to nonagenarians. We must strike a balance between servicing the needs of the very tech savvy patrons with the supportive needs of the less tech savvy and disenfranchised patron. The Internet, mobile technology, and the e-reader have greatly impacted our methods of service delivery as well as marketing.
The role of the library is to be more proactive in anticipating the needs of the patron sometimes before his latest needs are even realized. At the same time the library’s budget and staffing must also be dedicated to preserving and making available the material of the past. Libraries are shifting from being centers of information to centers of culture and production. The “maker space” is one of the innovative ideas in libraries. Patrons come to connect with instructors and other learners to learn to create with 3-D printers, work with robotics or create music and films. Librarians function as teachers and coaches.
Libraries today are becoming more vibrant and interactive. We must create a balance between patrons’ needs for quiet space versus a more active space. Librarians today are moving out into the community, taking services to shopping malls, airports, nursing homes, and even the local tavern. The library of today has strong collaboration with community partners such as schools, museums, YMCA organizations, art groups and others.
The Sawyer Free Library’s staff, Board of Directors, and volunteers have been working very diligently to make the library a thriving and responsive institution. This has been a busy year for the Sawyer Free Library and a year of many accomplishments that have moved us forward:
* At long last we have a new assistant director and one skilled at moving us more quickly into the digital arena.
* After six years of applying to the State for waivers due to insufficient funding by our municipality, the administration has kept their promise to have us waiver free.
* Our long term goal of creating a new website is at last a reality. It is crisp, clear and interactive, providing online signups various activities.
* After many years of meeting, consulting and planning, in a matter of weeks we will have a wonderful outdoor space and at long last a library parking area with a 24 hour drive up book drop.
* The goal of developing a community based strategic plan for the library is now a reality. After months of planning, researching, and consulting, the hard work of the strategic plan is a reality and awaits the implementation steps.
* We have a strong presence on social media – Flickr, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube.
* Our Summer reading program has grown to over 1600 participants.
* On a warm July evening we gathered 100 members of the community together and engaged them in conversation about the library and its role and relevance.
* City plumber Chris Rose lead the project to rejuvenate our water fountain and sculptor Aris Demetrios supported the cost of new lighting and other materials.
* Nearly 350 community members gathered at the library to learn more about the process and details of Gloucester’s wind turbines. Many more availed themselves of the archived video of the program.
* At least twice this past year library staff visited all public elementary schools to share access and information of the libraries resources and services.
* Through the efforts of library Friends and volunteers 91 year old Lucia McLaughlin received an honorary diploma, 73 years after she would have graduated. Lucia had to quit school in the 8th grade to help her mother care for 16 brothers all fishing with their father. When she confessed her desire to have graduated, library volunteers reading to residents at Seacoast Nursing Home, delivered Lucia to the June 9 Gloucester High School graduation to receive her honorary degree from Dr. Safier.
* Children’s library staff responded to requests from working parents who were not able to attend morning story hours. They established the popular Dads and Donuts Story time on Saturday mornings (with non-Dads welcome) and Tuesday evenings Pajama Story time.
* The copies of Pam Huston’s book ordered for the new book discussion group have flown off the shelves. Books-n-Brew which will meet monthly at the Dog Bar Cape Ann beginning Nov. 7 led by library staff, Mari Martin and our new Assistant Director, Freyja Sanger.
* Device Advice is a new service where you can book a one-on-one 30 minute session with library staff to learn all you need to know to download free eBooks and audiobooks to your eReader device.
* Two new ongoing adult programs feature a fiction writer’s group with noted author Susan Oleksiw and drop in Scrabble Night every Tuesday evening at 6 PM.
It is here that I must take the time to honor the staff for all they do to see that this institution thrives. We have a small but dedicated staff and a cadre of volunteers to make all these things possible. The Friends of the Library support us in many ways, the Art Advisory and the Lyceum support rich and varied programming choices, but it is the staff who through their commitment and willingness to learn and go beyond their normal duties, who make all things possible.
The Annual Meeting is about informing you, the members of the Corporation, of the accomplishments and activities of the library. It is also about more fully informing you of your role as a member of the Corporation. Your duties include:
* Providing us with feedback about the job we are doing, be it well done or deficient in some manner.
* Advocating for our needs especially at budget time when we are trying to plead our case before the City administration.
* Being more fully informed of the library’s mission, activities and goals so you can better inform the populace. You can do this by being attuned to our website, signing up for our newsletter, and joining the Friends of the Library.
* Volunteering your time and energy to assist from time to time with special programs or as the need arises.
* By donating financially to the Annual Appeal, the Friends or a memorial bequest.
Lastly I want to leave you with a few anecdotes that are very telling about what we do here at the Sawyer Free Library. In reference a middle aged person came in to use the computers and a staff member took the time to hear his story of sobriety and strong desire to earn his GED so he could find a better job. She called another staffer to fill in and took the gentleman herself to the Adult Learning Center where he registered and continues to work diligently and with hope to earn his GED.
Again in reference an out of town visitor came for help to find where an ancestor might be buried in a Gloucester cemetery. The exhaustive search by the staff member was unsuccessful, but in consulting with another reference librarian, she learned of a new online database. She searched and found the very row and stone and called the very happy patron with the good news. Today the resource can be found on our website under “Resources and 24/7 eResources,” “Cape Ann Genealogy,” and “Cemetery Data.”
Over and over I hear stories from the elderly who reminisce about how the library was their “university” as a youngster or how many hours they spent here with welcoming and helpful staff. Recently a 93 year old resident of Central Grammar inquired about the new landscaping project and told how he played football in that open field before the ’76 addition. He too shared how he had to quit school in the eighth grade. With great fondness this World War II Navy veteran shared how the library became his school as he spent hours reading the “books of knowledge.” Our goal is to make the library of 2013 as relevant to the citizens of Gloucester as the library of 1935 was then.
I want to thank the Friends of the Sawyer Free Library for their refreshments and presence here tonight. As always my appreciation to Administrative Assistant Stella Mantzourani for all she does; Linda Bosselman for her colorful boards and photos; Lisa Ryan and children’s staff for their boards and efforts; Cindy Williams for her photo boards of young adult programming; Valerie Marino for her outstanding photo documentation of the library project and Assistant Director Freyja Sanger for her efficient oversight of staff and committed work to the new website. The Board of Directors for their continued support throughout the year. And this year I would like to honor one of our outstanding and long standing volunteers who has been a presence here since I began nearly 16 years ago. I cannot imagine the library programs functioning without her. She chairs the Lyceum and is a member of the Art Advisory, a former board member, generous donor, and member of the building and grounds committee and my good friend, Mary Weissblum.
October 21, 2013