To the Editor:
I’m writing to The Bee for the first time ever, and it is about the place in Newtown that I most love, the Cyrenius Booth Library. I am not happy with some of the changes that the new director, Shawn Fields, is making at the library, and I feel the need to speak up. The Booth Library helped me raise my kids, supplied me with books free of charge since I moved here in 1994 and a job when I was ready. Staff here have always offered a warm welcome and assistance when I needed it.
I have a few suggestions for Mr Fields who appears to be trying to change things without getting a feel for the library environment first.
1. In a place where there is little financial benefit for staff, perks can be as simple as working the schedule to accommodate staff needs or catering the library holiday party instead of getting everyone to bring in a dish. Most of all, feel the creativity, generosity and love that your staff brings to their jobs before you make any big changes. Prepare to be amazed.
2. Ask the board to work harder to support the library. I will never forget when the board asked us to approach patrons for donations directly. What a great way to drive down patronage. “Can’t go there, they ask for money.” The board should be bringing in funds for the library, not the other way around. Above all, never ask an employee to do more than you would do yourself.
3. Keep the reference department on the third floor where people can work quietly, out of the stream of the hustle and bustle.
4. Take off your jacket when you are in the building. Be approachable. Be patron oriented, not corporate. Buy some sweaters or a vest if you need the third piece to feel comfortable.
5. And finally, come winter, turn down the thermostat! The library has always been too hot in the winter and it would be nice if that problem were to be solved once and for all.
I am not afraid of change, but I would caution new leadership to take things slowly. The Booth is no ordinary library. Library staff takes their jobs very seriously, and their job is to serve the patron as creatively and inexpensively as possible. I always wore a huge smile on my face at work because I was so happy to be there, to talk to parents and their children, and to be of service to the wonderful families of Newtown. I can’t tell you how much I loved finding “just right” books for children, planning my story time lesson, or helping teachers and mystery readers find the perfect books to share. It was a great privilege to work at the Booth Library.
There is love in this library. Experience it. Embrace it and then, if you see something that needs changing. Change it.
113 Head of Meadow Road, Newtown September 2, 2013