New Head Librarian

I haven’t been paying as much attention to the search for a new head librarian as I would have liked.

I will put a disclaimer on this post that I will likely repeat again: while I serve on the board of the Friends of Worcester Public Library, the opinions below are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect those of my beloved Friends:

Worcester Magazine and the Telegram [$] both report that the Worcester Public Library board has appointed a new head librarian, Christopher Korenowsky.  (Here’s an interview with him when he became head of the New Haven Free Public Library, a position he resigned from last month.)

Korenowsky will be the fourth head librarian WPL has had in as many years.  I do not want to be writing a blog post next year that says, once again, that it would be great to have a head librarian who lasts more than a year and a half.

The Worcester Public Library is at a stable spot at present, but the head librarian faces numerous challenges in the coming years.

While we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Frances Perkins (Greendale) Branch Library on Friday, we should not forget that of the three branch libraries Andrew Carnegie laid the cornerstone for in Worcester in 1913, only one — FPBL — is still actively used as a library.  Main South branch is now condos; Quinsigamond is now part of the school.

While we do have three other branches — Great Brook Valley, Roosevelt, and Tatnuck — and another (Goddard) scheduled to open in April, Roosevelt, Tatnuck, and Goddard (as well as Burncoat, whenever that happens) are sponsored by private entities for a period of three years.  Whether those private entities will continue to sponsor those branches after that period is something that should concern the head librarian, as well as an increased emphasis on outside organizations (through PILOT and donations through the Worcester Public Library Foundation) on funding what should be operational expenses (Sunday openings, branch libraries, etc.).

While all this is going on, there are also the larger questions of the relevance of the public library in our world, what services the library should provide to patrons, and how the library can continue to be a resource for all of us.

All of this gets interrupted when we don’t have steady, committed leadership — on the city side and on the library side.  Let’s hope we get a new city manager who’s committed to library services, and a new head librarian who can stick around long enough to see some of this stuff happen.

The giving and the taking

Thanks to a donor from Natick, the “Give and Take” bookcases at Union Station are full this week:

G and T bookcases

As some of you may recall, the Friends of the Worcester Public Library started this service for commuters two years ago, providing books that they could borrow or keep, so that their train commute might be spent reading.

Lately there’s been much more taking than giving.  Ideally, we’d love to keep these bookcases full all the time with an interesting selection of books, but when fewer people are returning or donating books, the shelves start to look a bit bare.  The volunteers of the Friends of WPL send a few boxes over every week, but sometimes it’s hard to keep those shelves full.

If you have any unwanted books, please consider dropping them off at the Give and Take bookcases on the 2nd floor of Union Station.  (And you can read this post for more ideas for how to help.)

Carolann MacMaster, Library Superstar

In case you missed it, the Telegram reported that Carolann MacMaster, the new library director at the Uxbridge Free Public Library had to justify the need for a fire escape (to make the third floor more accessible) and, indeed, the existence of fiction.

The primary opponent seems to have been selectman Peter Baghdasarian, who said, “If you think about it, why do people go to libraries? They want to get a bestseller and they don’t want to pay for it.”

The Telegram reported that “Mr. Baghdasarian said libraries were intended for education but now, he claimed, they were primarily for entertainment; he said 75 percent of the circulation was fiction. He also said there used to be a rule that one had to check out two nonfiction books for every fictional work.”

Despite what Mr. Baghdasarian thinks, people go to the library to do genealogical research, to assist with job searches, to learn English or another language, to read periodicals and become better-informed citizens, and — gasp! — to be entertained.

Library directors should not be in the position to defend fiction, which has been acknowledged by most humans as something worth reading for at least four thousand years.  But I’m very glad Ms. MacMaster defended not only the right of people to read fiction (!) but the concept of the public library.  Thank you!  People of Uxbridge, you have got yourselves a gem!

MassLive has many gift-that-keeps-on-giving quotes, including:

Personally, Baghdasarian said his home library has more than 4,000 books, many of which were purchased from libraries clearing their shelves of little-used titles. He doesn’t have much use for fiction, though.

“Napoleon is always Napoleon, but in a fiction book the names are all different, so I can’t retain them,” he said.

Imagine: a library of thousands of books, all about Napoleon.  A girl can dream!

T&G commenter TFW put it best:

“I remember when libraries only carried nonfiction books,” said Peter Baghdasarian who is 4000 years old and originally hails from Sumeria. “Ever since Gilgamesh was chiseled, education has gone downhill.” 

He then continued, “And don’t get me started on this ‘paper’ business.”

Tickets for Tanglewood Marionettes available on Monday at the library

The Worcester Public Library is going to host Tanglewood Marionettes’ production of Sleeping Beauty on Monday, December 30 at 1pm and 3pm.

Tickets for the show are required and available FREE at the Children’s Room Desk, starting tomorrow, Monday, December 16 until they are gone.

I cannot recommend Tanglewood Marionettes enough. If there is a child in your life between the ages of 4 and 10, and you’re looking for something to do during Christmas vacation week — get over to the main branch and pick up tickets, because they go fast!

The program is sponsored by the Friends of WPL.  Among other things, the Friends provide museum passes to the public and sponsor many children’s programs.  If you attend the marionette show, or if you use the museum passes, consider joining the Friends so that they can continue to offer these kinds of programs in the future.

Job Openings at the Worcester Public Library

It appears as though the head librarian’s position is open (!!!!!!), and — as was previously reported in various news outlets — the WPL Foundation is looking for a new executive director as well.

Due to myriad obligations, I have not been able to attend regular meetings of the WPL Board, but I may have to again.

I serve on the board of the Friends, but the following opinion is mine and mine alone:

I’ve said it before, and I hope I will never have to say it again: it would be great to have a head librarian who lasts more than a year and a half!

Worcester Public Library needs stability in leadership, and we will now be going through our third head librarian search in less than a decade.

This is something the City Council needs to consider when selecting new board members in a few weeks’ time.

More to come…

Worcester Public Library Board Openings

There will be two openings for the Worcester Public Library board for next year.

If you’re interested in applying, the city clerk will need to receive your letter of intent and resume to by Friday, November 15 at noon.

For more information about the process, please read this flyer.

If you have any questions about the process, send Jim an email.

The Friends of Worcester Public Library is also looking for two at-large members for its board.  We’re looking for folks who can attend one meeting a month (third Tuesday of the month at 4pm) and who are also willing to volunteer their time in book sorting, book sales, or the bookstore/cafe.  Please send me an email if you are interested and I’ll have someone get in touch with you.

If you aren’t interested in serving on our board, but are interested in volunteering for the Friends (book sorting, book sales, bookstore/cafe, and other activities), please leave a comment or come on down to the Food for Thought Cafe in the main branch and express your interest!

And — in case you were wondering — yes, we always need books and magazines for the Give and Take bookcase at Union Station.

Due to my schedule, I haven’t been able to attend the Worcester Public Library board meetings for months.  However, Jim Kersten has sent me the following:

WPL Head Librarian’s Accomplishment Report – June-August

WPL Strategic Plan 2013-2016 – final draft

WPL Strategic Plan – Action Plan

WPL Head Librarian’s Accomplishment Report – September

(I haven’t had a chance to read any of these documents — but please leave a comment if you have questions and I’ll try to find answers.)

CWW: Friends of Worcester Public Library book sale

Tomorrow (Thursday, September 5) through Saturday, September 7, from 10am-4pm in the Saxe Room at the main branch of Worcester Public Library will be another Friends booksale.

Hardcovers & trade paperbacks will be 50 cents, or 3/$1.

Regular paperbacks are 25 cents, or 5/$1.

All your purchases help support the Friends’ many programs, including museum passes and the Give and Take bookcase at Union Station!

And if you haven’t yet seen it, please check out the Friends Fall newsletter.


City Budget Hearings

Friendly reminder that the city budget hearings begin this afternoon.

Tracy posted a full schedule on her blog.

The FY14 annual budget has been posted to the city website.

I have not read the entire budget, but there are parts of the Worcester Public Library budget that are…puzzling:

The City Manager believes that the community can strengthen student outcomes with an unprecedented partnership and collaboration between the Library and the Schools. How can Worcester leverage public & private resources to achieve equitable access to literature, information, and technology for students, teachers, families, and neighbors? The solution is to have a Worcester Public Library Children’s Branch Library in every Worcester elementary public school.

Four pilot sites will be identified, which will bring the partnership between public library and public schools to the next level. Both Schools and Public Library are partners for success. When school principals/teachers and public librarians join forces, kids win and communities thrive!
[from budget pp. 37-38, pdf pp. 84-85]

A new One Library branch was added to the organization chart adding 8 new positions with salaries totaling $292,260 to provide services to the Worcester Public Schools.

Pilot funding has been increased to fully support the One Library staff positions for services to
the Worcester Public Schools.
[from budget p. 39, pdf p. 86]

While I’m grateful that the City Manager is so fond of library services that he wants to share them with schools, why can’t we just fund school libraries appropriately?

This will be discussed at the budget hearing on June 4.  I’m going to compile some questions, and I hope you share yours.  Because even the last head librarian’s report didn’t mention this.

Some of my questions:

1) Which schools are part of the pilot program?  Do they have space to accommodate this?

2) Who will pay for the non-staff costs (lighting, heat, books and other materials, shelving, cataloging, etc.) associated with the “children’s branch library” at the schools?

3) Can we ever get an accurate, transparent accounting of PILOT funding?  That is, who is paying it, and where is it being spent?

4) Will this money be counted as WPL funding in our reporting to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners?  If we are not funding a public library, it should not.

5) Have the schools been informed that there will be non-WPS employees working in the schools?  What are the implications of that?

There is also mention in the budget about moving the library facilities staff under the city.  (“The Library facilities management is being transferred to the new Division of Energy and Asset Management”, p. 85/38 of the budget)

I have not been able to attend as many library board meetings as I would like because of my obligations on the cemetery commission.  I don’t know when the One City, One Library was discussed in detail, but I know it was not discussed at any school committee meetings.

I’ll post more as I hear it, but I welcome readers’ thoughts on this.