Library director reflects on first year at the helm
When Elaine Tai-Lauria came on board as Wilton Library’s executive director last summer, it wasn’t long before she went through a baptism of wind and rain delivered by Superstorm Sandy.
During the storm’s aftermath, as hundreds used the library to work, warm up, charge up, and escape boredom, Ms. Tai-Lauria had the opportunity to “meet so many people and share so many stories. One gentleman was just so appreciative of having a warm cup of coffee on a cold night.”
It’s been relatively smooth sailing since then, and Ms. Tai-Lauria has spent the months since focusing on the priorities she outlined a year ago: reaching out to community groups, embracing technology, and welcoming “elusive non-users” of the library.
With September as Library Card Sign-Up month, this year Wilton is targeting the business community.
“With my experience in the corporate world, doing research [in corporate libraries] I know we can play a role in the business community,” she said during an interview with The Bulletin earlier this month.
Having been a commuter herself, she knows the attraction of audio books, for example, and other downloadables that also include magazines, movies and classical music streaming via Naxos.
“This year we have a push to invite corporate users to take advantage of the resources here,” she said.
The library is also reaching out to others. One group is the American Legion Post 86, right across the street. The library invited members of the post to present a program on flag etiquette for Flag Day, June 14.
Legionnaires will also be in the fore next month when best-selling novelist Nelson DeMille visits for an author talk on Tuesday, Oct. 8. A veteran of the Vietnam War when he served as a U.S. Army first lieutenant, Mr. DeMille is a paid-up-for-life member of The American Legion, and Post 86 will be recognized at the event.
“We are very sensitive to the needs of our seniors,” Ms. Tai-Lauria said, acknowledging another facet of the town she is reaching out to. “We are working with The Greens on training programs for new devices ... many are getting gifts of iPads and such from their children.”
She also visited Wilton Commons and offered a demonstration of downloads to the Wilton Rotary Club.
“We want to take the library into the community,” she said.
The library’s popular collaboration with the Wilton Historical Society will continue with their scholarly seminar series, this time focusing on the industrial age. The series will begin in February.
With more and more information available online and evolving forms of electronic communication, libraries must continuously reinvent themselves to remain relevant. A recent trend that Wilton Library is picking up on is “maker spaces,” Ms. Tai-Lauria said.
The library already has a craft room for children, but this would be a space “where people can make inventions,” she said. The library recently purchased a 3-D printer that would allow patrons to make a prototype.
She foresees the space as a place for people “to come together and share knowledge.
“We want to move in that direction, an appeal to more science-minded patrons,” she added pointing to the robotics club formed this year. Reflecting on how the club hosted another area team at the library to share experiences, she said, “They were so inspiring. I thought to myself, ‘these are our future engineers’” and the library could offer “an opportunity to experiment on a rudimentary level.
“This will take us into yet another direction.”
She and other staff members are identifying space in the building that would be repurposed for that effort.
The 3-D copier, by MakerBot, can make plastic items from a 3D computer file. On a recent morning it was replicating miniature chairs for a children’s make-your-own-dollhouse project. It has also been used to make cases to hold circuit boards for the catalog computers on the main library floor. The boards draw far less power and create less heat than their bulky predecessors. They also take up far less space, freeing up six feet of shelf space per case.
Business at the library has been on a steady uptick. Circulation in general in July was up 8%, Ms. Tai-Lauria said, and in the children’s department it was up 19%. Library visits increased by 5%. The upward trend in circulation increased in August and September has been brisk.
For the last fiscal year, more than 300,000 items have been checked out by patrons, and patron visits numbered over 250,000.
Circulation of downloadable books has increased 65% over the past year and audio books were up by 125%.
Circulation of books is also strong, particularly among teens, where it increased 5.5%.
“I am a firm believer print and digital will co-exist,” Ms. Tai-Lauria said.
Always at the center of the Wilton community, the library has been drawn in even more by recent events. Following Sandy and the Sandy Hook tragedy, the library has been working with the Wilton Security Task Force.
“We are learning so much from them,” Ms. Tai-Lauria said, adding the library is implementing some suggested measures.
She has also been invited to serve on the school district’s Strategic Plan Review Committee.
Of all that occurred over the past year, Ms. Tai-Lauria said she was especially gratified to be part of the community’s recognition of the late Dave Brubeck.
“We worked very closely with the Brubeck family on the event at the Clune Center,” she said. “That was a very special event for us.”