LENOX — The newly named permanent director of the Lenox Library, Amy Lafave, is a 20-year staffer with plans to continue the town-owned building's evolution into a 21st-century learning and community event space.
Lafave's appointment was announced at the recent annual meeting of the 160-year-old Lenox Library Association, the private nonprofit that operates the facility under a lease from the town. Lenox taxpayers supply about 45 percent of the organization's $550,000 annual budget, with contributions making up the rest.
Lafave, 50, succeeds Sharon Hawkes, who was asked to leave the library two months ago after nearly five years in the top staff position. Hawkes began work earlier this month as the director of the Nahant Public Library, near Marblehead and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Lafave has been acting director since Oct. 14, when the trustees announced the change in leadership.
Announcing her appointment, effective Jan. 1, outgoing board Chairman Matthew Lenehan described Lafave as "well-respected, very experienced and well-loved." He said that she has done "an incredible job" during her 20 years of service on the library staff.
Lafave, a Lenox native and resident, recalled the library's reopening in February 2005 after an extensive renovation. She told the trustees that "the Internet was accessed from a hard-wired computer, cellphones were for making phone calls and CDs were the media choice for music and audiobooks. There was no Twitter, iPhone, iPad or Kindle."
"We've had time to see what continues to work well in this space, what no longer works well and what has never worked well," she said. "We will be studying how we can make this a more efficient, more attractive space."
In a followup Eagle interview, Lafave described the 200-year-old building as "a jewel. The way we set up desk placements, computer stations or where we place books may have made sense 10 years ago, but everything is so rapidly changing with the technology."
"While we don't want it to be 'the shush library' — those days are gone," she said, "I'm also getting the sense that because we're so connected to our devices, our e-mail, it's making us all crazed. The library is still a place of sanctuary."
Plans for reconfiguring the library space are still preliminary. "We want to showcase the materials that will circulate the best," Lafave said, citing the biography collection now housed in the basement that might be moved to a more accessible location.
The eight centrally located Internet stations are getting less use, she pointed out, and could be moved.
After gathering usage and circulation data for the library's departments, the new director plans to meet with the staff and "brainstorm, open season, no idea is too crazy, at least in the early planning stage."
Lafave, a 1983 graduate of Lenox High and one of seven children, explained that she was happy to be director, without "executive" ahead of the title. "It's a library, not a Fortune 500 company," she said.
She acknowledged a "steep learning curve, it's quite a change, since I've never had a high-level management or administrative position before." Fundraising responsibilities are likely to rest on a development director, a new position that is under consideration by the board.
While she anticipates no staff cutbacks, Lafave conceded that "we're pretty lean. I just want to make sure we're operating in a way that we can support each other as well and as efficiently as possible."
For community programs, she is looking at designating a specific meeting space for public gatherings, since the library is much in demand. "We want to make sure anything that it's used for meets with our core mission as a library," she said.
"Today's library can't just be the place where you come and get a book, and the librarian stamps it out," Lafave said, "Those days are gone. It should be a community space, along with the Community Center and the Town Hall. My hope is that among these three organizations, we continue to collaborate."
"Keeping everything forever is not in any library's best interest," Lafave said. "If you want to agitate your most loyal customers, the best way is for them to come in and suddenly see stacks of books that have been cut back. 'Collection development' is making something new and fresh without drastically slashing and burning, so there's that balance."
Lafave's degree in music and English is from Connecticut College. Having tested the big-city scene in Boston briefly, Lafave concluded that "I'm a rural Western Mass. girl through and through, so I came back here."
She began working part-time at the Lenox Library in 1995 while pursuing her master's in library science at SUNY-Albany. With the degree in hand, she became the full-time music librarian in 1997, adding reference library and local history responsibilities 10 years ago, making her the No. 2 staffer.
At the annual meeting, Richard Taylor, a retired entrepreneur and consultant, was named president of the board of directors, succeeding Lenehan. Lenox resident Michael P. Albert, board chairman of Harodite Industries in Taunton, was appointed vice president, while Edward Richter remains as treasurer. The clerk is Barbara Sussman Goldberg.
Representing the town on the board are Town Manager Christopher Ketchen as well as Selectmen Kenneth Fowler and David Roche.
Newly named library trustees are Lenox residents Danielle Baukh, Barbara Cook-Fabiani and Veronica Fenton. The association, which has 16 members of the board of trustees for the coming year, up by one from 2015, is seeking as many as seven more.
By the numbers ...
Total library holdings: 87,830
Total circulation: 63,451
Number of programs: 528
Total program attendance: 11,620
Total library cardholders: 3,618
Estimated number of visitors: 43,888
The Lenox Library Association's financial balance sheet for fiscal year 2015:
Town appropriation: $253,000