B y Jaime Thomas
It takes a village to raise a library.
And in Pawlet, the community’s support of its public library combined with a passionate librarian was enough to earn it an exclusive spot on the Library Journal’s 2013 All Star list.
Out of the entire state of Vermont, only two libraries made the list—the other being the Craftsbury Public Library—and throughout the country there were 13 states that had no libraries make the list. And the library staff had no idea they were eligible for the list until two weeks after it was released.
“We didn’t know we were in this, so that makes it all the better,” said Glenn Munson, a library trustee, about the efficiency of libraries across the country being monitored. Though Librarian Director Beth Kashner immediately deferred all credit for the honor to everyone else, Munson said she is the driving force behind the library’s success.
“No one was more responsible for that than Beth Kashner,” Munson said. “She’s not the only person, but no one was more important in making the list.”
He praised Kashner, who has worked at Pawlet Public Library for six-and-a-half years, for becoming an official librarian and promoting what the community center has to offer.
“She’s like a producer would be—she does all the stuff a librarian should do, but she also knows all the people in the community and what they like and what they like to do,” he said, going on to liken her to the pied piper.
Kashner said she found out about making the list from an acquaintance in town.
“She said, ‘Hey Beth, congratulations, I heard about the library on the radio.’ I said no way, it must be someone else. But I go on the VPR sight, and I say, ‘It’s us,’” Kashner said, gushing about how “stoked” she was for the recognition.
Though she said she works very hard, she said it isn’t her but patrons and other staff that make the library what it is, specifically naming Tina Mach, assistant in training, and Heidi Hammell, who coordinates children’s programs.
She explained the rating system for the list, which is based on data reported annually by local libraries to their state library agencies and compiled by the federal Institute of Museum and Library services. Four per-capita statistics play into the score—circulation, visits, Internet computer use, and program attendance.
Kashner credits increased popularity at the library to overall automation and the issuing of library cards. She said as the library has worked to expand its functions—from internet usage to yoga to magic shows—and program participation has seen a huge increase.
It’s that goal, combined with what both Munson and Kashner describe as a great board, which makes the library the town’s social gathering place.
“We think of it as the heart of the community,” Munson said.
Being named to the list will help Kashner in writing and acquiring future grants, and Munson thinks it will attract even more patrons.
“When you have a dedicated staff, you have dedicated volunteers. When you have a library that offers more than books, that’s how you get more people in the door,” Kashner said. But she’s not satisfied enough to stay status quo; the librarian wants to keep on improving.
“We got four out of five stars—I’m asking where did that star go? How do I get that next year?” she said with a laugh.