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Mansfield Library in Temple names new director

  • Beth Crooker is the new head librarian at Temple's Mansfield Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Beth Crooker is the new head librarian at Temple's Mansfield Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Beth Crooker is the new head librarian at Temple's Mansfield Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/25/2020 4:30:12 PM

Beth Crooker took over as the new library director in Temple at the beginning of November, but after spending the last five years working at the Mansfield Library, it’s a job she’s been preparing for for years. 

When longtime director Kathy Fedorka announced her intent to step away, Crooker knew it was a position she wanted to pursue. She has been going to the Mansfield Library since she moved to Temple 16 years ago and understands just how important it is to the town. Her daughter Maddie Carpentiere was three when they moved within walking distance of the town library and her first introduction happened fast.

“I hadn’t even finished unpacking when I brought her to get a library card,” Crooker said.

Over the last five years, Crooker has done a little bit of everything – from general library duties to establishing new programs.

“I don’t even know if I had a title,” Crooker joked.

Along the way she got a good look at what it means to work in a small town library and how important it is to the patrons that come to browse and use the computers, to parents looking to pass along that love of books to their young children.

She unofficially assumed the duties of library director in May and her first order of business was finding a way to make it accessible to people after the operation was shutdown in March due to COVID-19. She started the curbside program from scratch, which began in July, and has been working ever since to make it more user friendly and appealing to Mansfield Library card holders.

Over the last few years, the library has been working to get its collection database online and an even bigger push has been made since March to give patrons an opportunity to see what is available when they can’t actually see what’s available.

“We’re still working to get the older titles into the online catalog,” Crooker said. “But (the shutdown) gave me time to catch up.”

With holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, earlier this fall Crooker put special emphasis on making sure those titles were online for all to browse through and choose for curbside pickup.

“It’s all about putting books and materials in people’s hands,” she said.

Allowing people to check out books again was important, but so was offering programming – even if it had to be done over the computer. She added the summer reading program to the virtual offerings and anywhere from six to 12 kids would participate each week.

“It’s good to have that connection,” Crooker said. “Not only to the library, but to each other. We are still part of the community and think that’s really important.”

The feedback about curbside has been positive, Crooker said, as “there’s a convenience factor to it.” And it has grown, with 125 books checked out in October and being on track to surpass that in November.

“We’re getting new people every week,” she said.

But for Crooker, she can’t wait until they are able to open the doors and invite residents in again.

“As convenient as curbside is, people miss browsing, people miss coming in,” she said. “That part is hard.”

During the summer, there were talks about the possibility of reopening in some capacity, but it never felt like the right time. As the number of coronavirus cases climb around the state, Crooker knows that curbside, which is held Tuesdays 3 to 7 p.m. and Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will likely be the only way they can operate for a while. Still she is planning for when it can happen, securing masks and hand sanitizer.

Crooker grew up in Wilton and spent many days at the Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library.

“Some kids are gym rats, I was a library rat,” she said. And having brought her own children – she also has a son Brady – to the Mansfield Library while they were growing up, she knows what access to a library provides for parents.

“I’m looking for ways to connect with more parents, but COVID is making it tough,” she said.

The library director position is part time, but Crooker said there’s always something to do. One big project is the technology plan which will upgrade the library’s offerings.

“I’m really excited about everything getting updated and being able to do more with technology,” Crooker said. “It would be great to provide more services.”

And now it’s just a waiting game to see all those familiar faces walk through the door.


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