At an open house event at the Frankford Public Library earlier this month, visitors were greeted by new faces at every turn.
That’s because the library’s staff is totally new — from the director to part-time employees. The board of trustees is also all new.
This follows a transitional period over the last several months which culminated in the hiring of a new director, Lesley Koble.
Koble started her new job in mid-March and has been getting to know the library. Although her job immediately prior to coming to Frankford was with New Castle County Libraries, she grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania and studied at Clarion University’s Center for Rural Librarianship, so she is well-versed in the needs of less urban areas than Delaware’s northernmost county.
“I was always supposed to be a rural librarian,” Koble said.
The library’s other new staffers include children’s library coordinator Rachel Jackson, circulation coordinator Meghan Hamilton, adult library coordinator Bonnie Elliott, and part-time employees Kristen Anderson, Roxana Gil-Bautista, Suzanne Carmel and David Salner.
Rachel Allen, the new board of trustees chairperson, said the board and the staff are moving ahead in what she called a “rejuvenation” of the library’s mission that she hopes “will transcend to the folks coming through the door.”
While Allen declined to directly address what exactly led to the extreme turnover last fall, she acknowledged that “we did have a little bit of a rocky two months” being short-staffed. With all positions on the staff and the trustees now filled, Allen said the staff and the board are now moving forward together. “When the team has full buy-in and their ideas are valued,” she said, progress is possible.
“Change is hard,” she said. “But change is inevitable. Sometimes change has to happen for growth to start. We wish all our past employees nothing but the best.”
Among the immediate goals of the board, Allen said, are updating the library’s employee manual and the by-laws the board operates under. As for the employee manual, she said, “it’s good to pick it up and shake it out every few years.” She added that the board realizes that small town libraries such as Frankford’s might not be able to offer the same salaries as larger libraries, but she hopes the library will be able to offer other benefits to its employees that will be attractive to them.
The change in the by-laws will allow the board to appoint trustees from the entire Indian River School district rather than just the Dagsboro and Frankford areas, which it had been limited to in the past. Allen also said she is happy that the board represents “a lot of varied, professional experience, including retired teachers and a treasurer with a background in finance.
The new board, in addition to Allen, includes Marlene Biddinger, Emily Klein-Welch, Cindy Givens and Beverly Straneva. Givens was on the staff at the library for a time, as its adult services coordinator.
Goals for the library in general include expanding Friday and Saturday hours to make the library more accessible to those who are in work or school during the week, Allen said. Other goals include expanding the library’s book collections, working with area Hispanic organizations to better serve that population with programs targeting increased literacy and possibly “citizenship” classes for immigrants, Allen said.
Teens are also a group the library’s leadership wants to focus on both Allen and Koble said. Koble noted that “there’s not a lot in Frankford to do,” particularly for teens, so she and the library’s new teen coordinator Emily Ellinger have been working on some ideas that would interest that age group. Ellinger has already started a teen recycling club and is planning other activities, in concert with the formation of a Teen Advisory Group to help suggest new programs.
In addition to the usual summer reading program for children, the Frankford library will soon start summer reading program for teens and one for adults. Both Koble and Allen said they see the library as an important resource for the community, not just a place for books. In order to increase the library’s visibility, Koble said “we’re showing our presence at community events, like the egg scramble. We really want to connect with the community and find out what it is that they need from us,” Koble said.
Even though the library’s staff is new, especially the director, who only started her job six weeks ago, Koble said “this group of employees get along really well, so whoever did the hiring knew what they were doing.”
“Our staff really loves this community and the people in it,” Koble said. “When we come to work, we are shaping our collection of items — books, materials, programs, services around the needs of the community.”
Regular meetings of The Frankford Public Library Board of Trustees are open to the public. They are held at 5:00 P.M. on the second Tuesday of each month in the library, located at 8 Main St., Frankford. For more information on activities and programs at the Frankford Public Library, go to the library’s website, https://frankford.lib.de.us/ or call the library at (302) 732-9351.
By Kerin Magill