|Newton Free Library
Fiscal Year 1999 - 2000
Report of the Library Director
Legacy for Literacy
Public Relations & Programming
Another busy year at the Newton Free Library saw us loaning more books and audio visual materials, answering more reference questions, and entertaining more people with a wide cross section of educational and cultural programs than ever before. While technology plays an increasing role in the services the Library provides, the significant growth in program attendance shows that Newton residents are looking for a comfortable and safe place to meet and interact with their friends and neighbors.
Happily settled into our newly renovated spaces, the Library completed its conversion of all of its Internet computers to high-speed graphical access. The branch libraries also converted to a graphical interface, using the high-speed fiber network connecting all City buildings provided by RCN. Branch users can now access all of the on-line databases available at the Main Library, and can surf the Web as well. The Reference Librarians provided a variety of classes to over 1,000 eager students in the Information Technology Training Center, and when not being used for a class, the ITTC was busy with people searching the Internet, accessing Library information, and word processing resumes and school reports from morning till night.
Improvements in the computer system provided through the Minuteman Library Network allowed customers to access their accounts from home, renewing their own materials and placing their own reserves. Books and other materials continue to travel from one library to another for patron use, with Newton providing more items than any of the other 38 libraries. The support provided by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen has allowed the Library to continue to build its collections, and we work hard to select the materials that customers are looking for.
Our cultural and educational programming was stronger than ever. Highlights for adults included the only Boston-area appearance by Harvard scientist and author Stephen Jay Gould, a talk by best-selling author Arthur Golden, and a special reading/discussion series on history, science and education led by outside scholars and sponsored by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Mystery writer Robert Parker and South Boston author Michael Patrick MacDonald spoke at a sold out Friends of the Library Book and Author Luncheon, and the Library Lovers’ Ball honored 10 authors including Linda Barnes and Howard Gardner. Several Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians presented concerts, while popular WGBH radio host Ron Della Chiesa spoke about music. Partnerships with the New England Mobile Book Fair, All Newton Music School, Green Decade Coalition, Center for Italian Culture, and The Jane Austen Society continued to enrich our offerings.
In the Children’s Department, lap sit story hours for babies and their care-givers were a popular new offering. Presented at the branch libraries once a month, they were also an opportunity for families to see what the branches have to offer. The Children’s Librarians provided dozens of programs each week, with Science Tuesday, funded by the Friends of the Newton Free Library, and a weekly Writing Workshop for older children among the highlights for the year.
The Library received a Library Services and Technology Act federal grant funded through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to develop a Customer Service Policy. This project fit in well with other customer service training that we have focused on over the past 5 years.
Volunteer hours increased in FY2000, with over 11,000 hours (6 FTEs) contributed by nearly 200 faithful volunteers. From shelving videos to watering plants, working at the Circulation Desk to mending books, our volunteers help us every day. I am particularly grateful to the Friends of the Library, who provide on-going assistance through the gift cart, book sales, and general support of the Library. I would also like to thank the Library staff, Board of Trustees, Board of Aldermen, city administration, city department heads and Mayor Cohen for all of their assistance and support over the past year.
Our Library is a powerhouse of information with access to the Internet, the Minuteman catalog of 39 libraries in the region, dozens of electronic databases and indexes, a Library home page that links to useful websites and a continually updated collection of print and non-print materials. Our outstanding staff of Reference librarians helps patrons find information in every field, from medical, legal and business facts to recipes and vacation ideas. This year staff assisted patrons with nearly 335,000 reference inquiries.
Part of the mission of the Library is to teach individuals how to find information and to research subjects. In keeping with this goal, Reference offered very popular hands-on computer classes in the new Information Technology Training Center. This year “Starting a Free E-Mail Account” and “Investments” were added to the “Internet,” “Basic PC Skills” and other class offerings.
The non-fiction collection was strengthened in many areas including literary criticism, foreign language materials, science, poetry, art and photography, music books and scores and dozens of new periodical subscriptions. The legal database Loislaw was purchased and installed on all the computers and the Newton Newspaper Index is now maintained electronically. Access to the Dialog News Collection was provided through our Metrowest membership and College Source is now available through the Minuteman Library Network.
Reference staff continued to proctor exams in-house and made many outreach presentations to school groups and their instructors as well as to the Greater Boston Senior Computer Society. The Newton History Series and Legal Series featured diverse programming appealing to many tastes. The department also prepared a wide range of bibliographies to accompany weekly displays on the A-frame in the lobby.
Patrons in Auburndale, Newton Corner, Waban and Nonantum enjoy using their neighborhood library branches for finding a new book to read, bringing their children to a storytime or homework help session or attending an adult book discussion. This year all branches received high speed, graphical Internet access, allowing patrons to connect to the world wide web of information.
The sight of many excited youngsters walking with their teachers across Homer Street on the way to a Friday morning preschool film or the cries of many a frustrated child not wanting to leave the Library is testament to the love and care the Children’s librarians give to our youngest patrons. This year staff led a series of storytimes for every age, ran the Summer Reading Program, prepared several booklists on a variety of subjects, introduced Library services to students through outreach visits to schools and acted as readers’ advisors, helping students use Library resources for homework assignments and recommending good books to read.
The new layout of the Children’s Room with a separate picturebook room has been a wonderful success, allowing older children to study, read or use the computers in a quieter atmosphere. New programs for FY00 included a very popular Science Tuesday series sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Music and Movement concerts with Barbara Goldfinger, a series of World Cultures Holiday Programs sponsored by the Newton2000 committee and an expansion of writing programs for older children: short story and poetry writing, journalism and scriptwriting. Also popular were the Bookbash with Mayor Cohen and Children’s librarians reading from their favorite books, the Pumpernickel Puppets show, Higgins Armory Renaissance presentation, Human Rights Essay Contest, End of Summer Reading Party and much more.
YA librarians plan interesting programs and services to stimulate leisure reading among young adults and meet their needs as students. This year an SAT review session and YA booktalk were offered as well as the annual Summer Reading Program, with participants reading nearly 200 books. In the new Information Technology Training Center, librarians taught computer classes on Buying a Car, Choosing a College and Report Research. The collection was enlarged by 1000 new books and librarians prepared booklists and regularly updated easel displays highlighting authors and new fiction acquisitions. Staff continued to visit high schools and lead library tours and plans are underway to reach out to even more students next year.
The Library is about much more than just books; it’s now the place to gather in Newton for a variety of top-notch concerts, lectures, discussion groups, art exhibits and more. In addition to events mentioned in the Director’s Report, highlights of the year included:
|Winter solstice concert of music from many different traditions by Circle of Song||Environmental writer Bill McKibben speaking for the Green Decade Coalition|
|Talk by the “Dean of American Theatre Critics,” Elliot Norton||Slide Show by portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman|
|Author appearances by Andre Dubus III, Thomas Lynch, Harvey Silverglate, Amir Aczel, Betty Taymor, and others speaking on law, science, politics, fiction and mysteries||
Career counselors Sandy Butzel and Deborah Knox, speaking on Life Work Transitions.com: Putting Your Spirit Online
|Concert of Chinese art and folk songs by acclaimed soprano Guiping Deng||Jim Schantz’ exhibit of “Pastel Landscapes” of the Berkshires|
|Center for Italian Culture presentations by expert speakers on a wide range of topics: opera composer Verdi, Italian fascism, the first woman university graduate, the Renaissance guitar, WWII Jewish rescue efforts||Night of humorous British Music Hall and pub songs by Derek Lamb|
|Women’s History Month presentation by Laurie-Kahn Leavitt, producer of the PBS special “A Midwife’s Tale”|
“What a wonderful experience to talk about important ideas with a group of articulate people who have diverse views. What a wonderful antidote to the mundane exchanges which characterize too many conversations... My only complaint was that I returned home so stimulated that I found it hard to sleep!” - Maureen Richards, a participant in our “Ends of Civilization” Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities reading/discussion series
Legacy for Literacy Our literacy program now has 60 people involved in conversation groups and/or one-on-one tutoring in English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education. Enrollment in the tutoring program doubled this year to more than 40 students and nearly 20 people are participating in beginner, intermediate and advanced conversation groups.
Social Services has a wide variety of large print books, talking books, described videos, a TTY device for the hearing impaired and many kinds of equipment, magnifiers and amplifiers to assist and enhance the lives of the visually and hearing impaired, elderly and homebound. The librarian personally advises patrons, selecting reading material and audio books for every taste. This year software for sight impaired patrons was installed on the large-screen computer in Reference; using this program, patrons may search both the Library homepage and the Internet.
The collection expanded to include large print best-sellers as well as “Oprah’s Choices,” with many available soon after the publication of the regular print books. A standing order for a biography series in large print was also initiated. Time magazine in large print became available in addition to ongoing large print subscriptions to the New York Times and Reader’s Digest. Outreach services included delivery of books to those who are homebound on a weekly basis, rotating book deposits at senior housing and nursing homes and book review programs at retirement and nursing homes. This year approximately 400 people attended these lively and informative talks at various venues.
Now 1200 strong, the Friends of the Library is an active organization that provides a link to the community, spreading goodwill about the Library and, in turn, organizing volunteers to assist Library staff or work at their activities. This year the Friends managed successful quarterly book sales at the Auburndale branch, ran the Main Library gift cart and book cart in the lobby, organized volunteers to shelve books, planned the Book & Author Luncheon and mailed the Library’s monthly newsletter to their members. The Friends gave $26,000 to the Library in FY00 which enhanced its collection, sponsored many Children’s programs as well as the annual Poetry Festival and supported customer service training for Library staff.
The Development office raises private money from individuals and businesses to supplement tax dollars. This year’s lively community Barbeque, run by Herb Regal and Judy Austin, along with the elegant Library Lovers’ Ball, raised awareness of the library along with funds that were used to replace the dumb terminals throughout the building with new computers that provide high speed graphical Internet access. Proceeds from the year-end appeal were used to significantly increase the collection. We are grateful to all those who send contributions to support the library as the cultural and educational center of the community.
We now have nearly 200 volunteers, contributing the equivalent of 6 full time employees annually! From shelving books to computer, bibliographic and office assistance, our volunteers provide an indispensable service. We offer heartfelt thanks.
This office plans and coordinates a wide spectrum of adult cultural and intellectual events, then promotes these programs and Library services by conducting media relations, editing a monthly newsletter chock full of information, creating an eye-catching computer slide show of events in the lobby and hosting the popular monthly cable television show “At the Library.” Numerous flyers, brochures, concert programs, signs, maps and other promotional and informational materials are designed and produced in this department and this year, the Public Relations Assistant redesigned the Library website with expanded graphics.
We thank the Board of Trustees, Policy and Planning Advisory Subcommittee, Board of Visitors Subcommittee, the Friends and Volunteers.
© 2000 Newton Free Library / Last Updated: March 12, 2001.