NEWTOWN, Conn. — Interacting with the community, overseeing essential projects and managing programs are some of the things that Brenda J. McKinley remembers the most from her 22 years as director of the Cyrenius H. Booth Library in Newtown.
Starting in January, McKinley will be moving on to a new opportunity as director of the Ridgefield Library.
She is looking forward to taking on the challenge of a larger library and managing a larger staff.
“This is a great career opportunity,” said McKinley, a Newtown resident. “Ridgefield is another great community, just like Newtown.”
She has been at the Cyrenius H. Booth Library since 1995, working her way up the ranks. Before taking on the role of director two years ago, McKinley's previous positions included reference librarian, head of technical services, systems librarian and head of circulation.
As director, McKinley managed staff and programming, and oversaw the 36,000-square-foot library, which has a collection of about 120,000 items. The library’s circulation is about 210,000 items a year.
The Cyrenius H. Booth facility is a great hometown library. “It has been a wonderful place to be while I was raising my four kids, who now range in age from 15 to 22," she said.
“My goal as I start my new job is to really get to know the people in the Ridgefield community," McKinley said. "To be a successful public librarian for your town, you need to know the town. I will spend lots of time where the people are -- going to meetings and visiting organizations in town."
As director of a public library, McKinley said she has enjoyed being part of the Newtown community and supporting the people in town, from youngest to oldest. "It’s very satisfying,” McKinley said.
One recent project she was involved with was helping to develop a community needs-based strategic plan for the Newtown library.
“Because we are the library for our town, as library director, I helped to run the plan,” McKinley said. “We worked with a consultant and had meetings, focus groups and surveys.
“It was a six-month process. We updated all the policies and procedures in the library,” she said.
She is proud of all the community outreach at the library. “For example, our librarians will go out to local schools and preschools and do story times,” McKinley said.
Plus, she said she’ll never forget all the times she was able to help patrons find items they were searching for.
“One time when I was working in the reference department, a woman came in who had just received a cancer diagnosis and needed more information about it. I was able to direct her to resources and support through books, groups and referrals to experts," McKinley said.
“It’s moments like this when you know you're making a real difference in someone’s life,” she said.
Libraries serve a big social role in the community. “People come to read the paper, do puzzles, play mahjong, work on school projects and attend writing and book groups,” McKinley said.
Despite what many may think, libraries are thriving and are not in any danger of being replaced by the Internet anytime soon.
“The Internet doesn’t have everything that people need. Plus, it doesn’t necessarily contain true information and not everyone has access to it,” McKinley said.