Running a library is like running a business, says Milton Public Library director Susan Larson. Eight months into her tenure, she said countless to-do lists, dedicated staff and a concrete foundation all help operations tick.
“My to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer and longer as far as ideas and partnerships [go],” Larson said.
Her business is a bridge. With a new website debuting soon, the library bridges the digital divide. With free WiFi and computer access, socio-economic status doesn’t deter patrons.
The library branches to endless areas of exploration. Astronomical findings, lessons on diversity and inclusion or a pre-schooler discovering its storytime group are all possible within the book-stacked walls, Larson said.
Outlining her vision, Larson focuses on the idea of “lifelong learning,” coining education as vital for success.
In the short term, she’s committed to furthering this motto through the new website and an “all Milton reads” summer program. In conjunction with the school district, the latter invites people of all ages to read and discuss equity- and equality-themed books.
As a community center, the library is playing a role in furthering diversity discussions that began within the Milton Town School District last June. Since, the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative hosted numerous dialogues at MPL.
“The more people can learn and interact with other people and other cultures, I think it benefits everyone,” Larson said. “And the public library can be a real source for opportunities for learning, whether through resources or programming or just being a place for community gathering.”
An African drumming program may be in MPL’s future, she added.
Larson is also advocating for an increase in the library’s fiscal year 2019 budget to fund computer software and hardware updates. She hopes to introduce a few new age-based computer programs to the Bombardier Rd. hub.
Looking long term, Larson’s team plans to re-evaluate programming. Is there something missing? Are there ways to make current offerings more inclusive? Larson wants to know.
Already, Larson’s changed two programs following her course of inclusivity. Over the holidays, MPL decreased its number of storytimes with Santa, recognizing not everyone celebrates Christmas.
Historically, MPL hosts a “Dad’s Derby Day,” where fathers and their sons build a cardboard racetrack for toy cars. This year, “Dad’s” is disappearing from the event title.
Larson, a single mom with three grown children, said small changes like this promote empowerment and inclusion. She said area moms are expressing gratitude for the change.
Going forward, Larson visualizes programming that doesn’t limit people based on their actual or perceived sexual identity, race, gender identity or expression, age, economic status, ability or disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs and immigration status, she said.
Other changes include a night sky viewing with Vermont Astronomical Society in April, a fly-tying program and an added school route for Millie the Bookmobile.
Personally, Larson is embracing her own life change, moving from Virginia to Milton. And to put it simply, she’s loving it.
“It has exceeded my expectations,” she said, expressing she was “very happy” when, after some delay, she and library trustees agreed on a permanent $50,000 contract on December 5.
Unlike other places she’s worked, Larson says she doesn’t feel a need to convince people in Milton to take advantage of the library’s resources. In other communities, she said, corporations like Amazon and Google are overpowering outdated libraries. But not here.
Around town, she’s often met with the phrase, “Oh, you’re our new librarian!” when introducing herself.
At first, the excitement surprised her. Coming from larger libraries, multiple people usually fill the same shoes she does. But again, not in Milton.
Since Larson’s résumé spans various roles in micro-departments at larger libraries, she said her vast experience allows her to fill her one-(wo)man-band director role with ease. (Not to forget the countless to-do lists.)
“[I’m here for] as long as they’ll have me,” she said with a smile.
Those interested in sharing book title ideas for the “All Milton Reads” summer reading program may attend an introductory meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Milton Public Library.