Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stacks Of Plans For 2012 At Brockton Libraries

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Brockton Public Library advocates are not only looking forward to the new year, they are waiting with anticipation for 2012’s first Friday the 13th when the main branch library will open its doors on a Friday for the first time in years.
“We are really excited about it,” said Elizabeth Marcus Wolfe, Brockton Public Library’s new director. “There are lot of people to thank for making this happen,” she said.
Starting on Friday, Jan. 13 the main branch library will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also, the hours at the West Branch and East Branch libraries will be expanded.
The West will open at 2 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. beginning Jan. 11 and the East will open at 2 instead of 3 p.m. on Thursdays, starting Jan. 12.
The extra hour for each of the branches coincides with the 2 p.m. closing of the high school and middle schools near the two libraries.
Wolfe said students for years have walked past the libraries at 2 p.m. instead of walking in to complete homework or divert from other activities afterschool that might not be of a positive nature.
“We want to capture that student population—junior high and high school students,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe, who took over three months ago, said it was the library’s staff who are making the new hours possible by their willingness to take on different roles and responsibilities, including administrative staff manning the public desk on Fridays at the main branch.
She said the library’s employee schedule is very complex, and very tight, and a lot of work went into extending hours, and appreciates everyone’s hard work to bring a much-desired result.
Wolfe said the staff is “stretching its resources” and although the main branch at 304 Main St., will be open 8 additional hours, some services such as extensive research or special events or children’s programs will not be available, but overall opening the main branch on Fridays and adding an extra hour each at the branches is a step in the right direction.
“All felt it was the right thing to do,” Wolfe said.
On the job for about three months, Wolfe said she has had the chance to meet with the library’s directors, patrons and members of Friends of Brockton Public Library, get a preliminary view for the future.
She said extending library hours is not only a way to better serve the public, but also chips away at the Brockton system’s teetering position as a state certified facility.
Due to budget cuts, numerous areas have been neglected Wolfe said, jeopardizing Brockton’s certification status, a situation that results in the city getting less money from state aid.
She said through a discount program the city has retained its certification and some state money, but worries that program will not last much longer.
“It’s a compromise already. Some people might say we don’t have the money for other services like the schools, police or fire, so just close the library, or don’t buy books, but the state doesn’t give money to libraries that are just warehouses for old books,” Wolfe said.
“We’re losing money because of it,” Wolfe said. “We need to have that full certification,” she said.
Also on the docket for the upcoming year, Wolfe said, is the beginning of a capital improvement fund to renovate the West Branch, a building she said is fraught with electrical, plumbing, heating, and other structural deficiencies.
“The whole building needs to be renovated,” Wolfe said.
Another initiative for 2012 that is in its early stages is the development of a long-range strategic plan.
Wolfe said library officials will host meetings and other events to seek information from residents, volunteers, government officials—everyone and anyone to let them know what people like about the library, what they don’t, what they might want to see the library offer in the future.
“A cafĂ©? That’s something we can look at,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe, 58, vivacious, quick-witted, and with a good sense of humor, is a native of Bridgewater.
She graduated from Bridgewater-Raynham High School and went on to earn her undergraduate degree at Harvard University in English and history. She received a master’s in library sciences and media from Simmons College, where she has taught as an adjunct professor.
She was the director at Braintree’s Thayer Public Library before taking the position in Brockton.
She has two adult children, daughter Laura and son Greg.
Currently Wolfe lives in Holliston, but is in the process of selling her house to meet a residency requirement for her position.
“I have 9 months to go,” Wolfe said, crossing her fingers that her sells within the one-year residency requirement stipulated in her contract.
At first glance Wolfe might not look like someone who would fit-in as director of a city library system where the population’s majority is more than 50 percent minority and for-better-or-worse boasts a reputation predominantly based on the city’s crime rate.
Wolfe--known as Betsy--chuckled at the erroneous first impression.
She said she recognizes and is aware of the wealth of positives in Brockton and negatives associated with city life—homelessness, poverty, mental illness, drugs and crime that permeate some of the elements in the community.
Wolfe said the first stop to combat some of those problems is a free and open library for all—one of the most important offerings of a democratic civilization.
“I like diversity--Brockton is a city that has so much potential,” Wolfe said. “I’ll be an advocate for the library and its services. Having our doors open as much as possible for as many people as possible is so important—literacy is the cornerstone of our society,” she said.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see. A big part of our community getting to expand instead of shut down.