Jessie: In New Hampshire where the trees are putting on a heartbreakingly glorious show!
I cannot tell you how delighted I am to welcome Elizabeth Baker to the Wickeds today. She was my very first friend in the village I have made my home for the last 28 years and ever since then, she has been one of my very dearest. In those intervening years we have each pursued careers of a literary sort; I with my writing and Betsy as an absolute gem of a library director. And as well as I thought I
Jessie: In the seventeen years that you have been a library director how has your role, and the role of libraries in communities changed?
Elizabeth: The Milton Free Public Library was my first job in libraries. I envisioned the library as a place to get books, magazines, and movies. Certainly, that is what we did! As my job progressed, Movies went from VHS to DVDs, to streaming. Some books became audiobooks on cassettes,
The building changed. In 2006, the upstairs space was an attic filled with discarded books. By 2016, the upstairs space was reimagined for
We have offered more programming over the years: storytime, crafting groups,
COVID made me more intentional about how I write policies: How do we react to a
E: I have an Excel spreadsheet that lists tasks and chores that I need to do on an annual, monthly, weekly, and daily basis. It is a pretty dry list, which you would think would lead to a dry job. It’s not. Even though I have a routine, I don’t feel stagnant, habituated, or dissatisfied as a result. I don’t think of my job that way. On a daily basis, I would evaluate past programs to enhance future ones, plan for programs months in advance, and deal with the fires that are right in front of me. None of these fires are large blazes, maybe because of the planning and evaluation. Certainly, the best part of any day is interacting with patrons, staff, and the public (and books!).
J: One of the things you have been known for during your tenure is how carefully and appealingly you have curated the library’s collection. How did you go about choosing which books to add?
E: I choose material based on what the patrons want, primarily. Many items were not under my radar until someone spoke up. Other items I might have thought about and discarded until someone else requests them.
Library Journal provides a great list of recently and future published items.
Twice a year, New Hampshire Public Radio runs a program with local booksellers and librarians from larger libraries letting the listeners in on what is circulating or selling in their area.
The New York Times provides a list of best sellers. I often find other lists in whatever periodical I read. All of these periodicals help form my wish list too.
E: Budget and banning. Milton Free Public Library is located in a small village that is part of a (not much larger) town. Libraries in New Hampshire are funded by the town, not a county (as they are funded in other states.) Small New Hampshire towns are tasked with funding all of their municipal services based solely on property taxes. New Hampshire residents certainly, but nationally as well, engage in a hot debate about how to fund and what to fund regarding municipal services. When people feel the squeeze, many feel that libraries are expendable.
I find it very difficult to remain neutral when discussing book banning. There are those that want to choose what can and cannot circulate in a given library-especially material for children
E: Any community gathering reminds me why I chose this village. Most are not strictly “library” gatherings, but the library grounds provide a ” jump off” point. Every year the July 4th parade musters in the library parking lot. The library hosts the veterans every other Memorial Day observance. The library also participates in the Halloween “Trick or Treat” nights. The library also hosts children’s parties. Each event-every year- steeps me in nostalgia.
J: What have you read recently that you would recommend? What is in your to-be-read pile?
E: Well, naturally, I have recommended all of the Wickeds! The patrons love a good mystery! I am usually way behind on the bestseller list: I loved A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towle, Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, and anything by Andy Weir.
I am a huge fan of non-fiction and will read a cookbook from cover to cover, I especially enjoy those from kitchens, unlike those I am most familiar with !
My “to read” list is long. As I said, I love non-fiction and like to peruse the non-fiction shelves for things I haven’t read yet, be it cookbooks, history, biographies, or a “how to!”
J: And finally, if you could tell the public just one thing you wish everyone knew about their local library, what would it be?
E: If you walk into a library expecting a “shush librarian” in a tight bun and echoing stacks, you will be surprised! Libraries are populated with energetic, thoughtful people (patrons, and staff:) using the public computers to study or work; crafters talking about their homes, gardens, and lives; children learning
Readers, do you have a favorite library or librarian memory to share? Leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway for Jessica’s latest Beryl and Edwina mystery and an extra goodie or two besides!
Elizabeth, “Betsy” Baker is a granddaughter,