| Dennis Hackett
BELCHERTOWN – The next time you enter the Clapp Memorial Library you may see a new face – that’s new Library Director Cyndi Harbeson who took over for longtime Director Sheila McCormick on June 13.
Harbeson said she has been working in libraries as long as she has been able to.
“My first job was in the Lucy Robbins Welles Library in Newington, CT, which is my hometown library where I started as a library page when I was 15 and I’ve been in libraries and archives ever since,” she said.
After starting at the Lucy Robbins Welles Library, Harbeson said she worked in several other libraries along the East Coast.
“I went from there to graduate school at Simmons and then came home and worked at the Connecticut Historical Society for a while and subbed at the Newington library as a reference librarian. Then I was in Boone, NC, for five years and came back up here to work at the Jones Library,” she said.
Becoming a librarian was always in the cards for Harbeson.
“I can’t remember not wanting to be a librarian, my mother worked part time at our local library, and we were also avid library-goers, so I felt that it was something I always knew I wanted to do,” she said.
Harbeson said she got her first experience in library management during her time in Amherst.
“During COVID [-19], when we were all shut down, I had the opportunity to take over management of the North Amherst Library branch because the branch head had retired and we needed to open up the library for outdoor holds pickup services, so I volunteered to get that going before we could hire a new branch head and I just loved it, for a year and a half I was doing that and working in special collections,” she said.
During that time Harbeson said she got a taste of doing collection development and staff management. She also realized how much she enjoys being a mentor and being able to foster the “love of libraries” in her employees.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to subside, Harbeson said she is hoping to bring people back together at the library.
“It was an unexpected joy to find, and I thought this was a really good way that I could try to make a difference, which – coming out of COVID [-19] – bringing people together that way and turning the tide to bring people back into the library, making it a habit to go to the library again, I think is going to be an exciting challenge,” she said.
Harbeson detailed some of her goals for the future of the library.
“Getting people back in the library is the top one, it’s really quiet. We’re just kicking off our summer reading programs and that has been really popular in the past and I think it’s really going to start bringing people in, getting programming back up and running and trying some new things. I’m also very interested in collaboration, so collaboration between the Stone House Museum, the schools, the senior center any way that we can collaborate and bring our services where they’re needed as well as bringing people in to use our services,” she said.
Harbeson said she is looking forward to bringing her love of knitting to the library by restarting the Woolies, a knitting program that used to run out of the library.
After a good start, Harbeson said she is excited to meet the rest of the community in Belchertown.
“The staff already is incredible, they’ve been welcoming and kind, they know their patrons so well so I’m looking forward to meeting more members of the community and having a busy, vibrant library again, it’s really going to be exciting,” she said.
She added her new job is off to a great start.
“It’s day three so I just want to learn and absorb as much as I can, this community is just fantastic and they really love their library so it’s a gift and a privilege,” Harbeson said. “It’s been great to meet everybody who has come in that I’ve been able to meet, everybody has been so friendly, it’s a really welcoming community.”