Library sets goals, plans to expand programs in new year

6 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Anastasia Weigle has served as the Caribou Public Library’s director for nearly one year, and says that while 2017 was “challenging,” she is looking to raise funds, add quality programs, and collaborate with other community organizations in the new year.

Last year ended with a victory for the library, as the City Council agreed to budget $10,000 to allow for an additional employee to work 15 hours a week.

“I think I was able to get through to a majority of councilors because we do fulfill a need in the community,” Weigle said. “We are thankful to the council and to City Manager Dennis Marker. He fought for us; he knew the library was important.”

Weigle said on Wednesday that she is currently interviewing applicants for the assistant position, and that it will fill a “three hour gap” that library staff experienced each day last year. She said that dealing with this gap in 2017 was challenging in a positive way.

“This is what drives librarians to find solutions,” she said. “We had a staff that is very flexible and able to move their hours when needed. We have an ex-librarian on our board, Wendy Bossie, who worked as a substitute librarian, and have found exceptional [employees] from [federally funded] Fedcap and SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program) who come in and do specific work for us.”

Through the struggle of filling the three hour gap, Weigle said the library “forged relationships” with those organizations.

One SCSEP employee, George Palmer, currently manages a book store in the library that acts as a “fundraising arm” for the facility.

“We opened the bookstore in October and since then we’ve maybe raised $300,” she said. “That may not seem like much, but it’s actually a lot for the library.”

Fundraising, in Weigle’s words “will save any cultural institution.” As a local example, she cited the Caribou Historical Society, a small museum that is completely autonomous and has no attachment to the city in terms of funding. She said the members of the historical society are able to combine fundraising with grant writing to keep the facility afloat, adding that they are “smart” and that they “work hard.”

The library met its 2017 goal of fundraising $4,000 and Weigle said the facility is aiming for $6,000 this year, adding that every donation counts.

“I had a patron give us $500 around Christmas last year,” she said. “He came in with overalls and gave us an envelope. We thanked him, and I was stunned when I opened the envelope. He told me that he came to the library in January [2017] and had to use the computers for his small business.”

The man told Weigle he was initially “lost” when it came to computers, and that one of the librarians helped him through the process. He told Weigle he just wanted to say “thank you” with the donation.

Looking ahead, Weigle has big plans for the library, but doesn’t want to add too many new programs. She said she’s a firm believer in quality over quantity, and feels that adding too many programs with little substance will only cause burnout among staff.

Some of the future programs include holding workshops to introduce the elderly population to technology, a smartphone film festival for high school students, and a movie night that involves film analysis and discussion.

“I want to start holding workshops that are maybe one hour long,” Weigle said, “and that would show people how to set up gmail or search the internet.”

While the director was prepared to write a grant for the tech lessons, she said a meeting with Lyn Michaud at the Caribou Learning Center eliminated the need.

“Lyn offered to let us reserve laptops,” she said, “and they have a large, Epson printer they use to make posters for their workshops and offered to add our workshop at the library to the poster.”

The smartphone film festival will involve meeting with a book discussion group at Caribou High School, and giving them a chance to participate in the event at the library, which involves creating an “interpretation of any one scene from any book” on their phones.

“We always want to look into the future,” Weigle said, “and ultimately we’d like to build this up as a county-wide event, inviting other towns and hosting it here.”

The film analysis event could quickly become a reality, as the library recently obtained a license from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Weigle says it will be geared toward adults interested in film and film discussion.

“We’re looking at showing films for people who are interested in movies,” she said. “Films are ways of telling stories, so when we do this film series, we’ll show movies of a certain style. There will be popcorn, and we’ll discuss the films before and after the showing.”

She said that the inspiration came from the popularity of renting movies at the library, and that she will often have surprisingly in-depth discussions with people returning movies.

“It’s more than watching movies,” she said. “We’ll be talking about films.”

To summarize plans for the new year, Weigle said “2018 is a year of leveraging resources” and collaborating with other organizations within the community. She said she particularly wanted to thank Lyn Michaud of the Learning Center, Caribou Events Coordinator Christina Kane-Gibson, and the staff at Caribou High School.