New North Adams library director sold on books


NORTH ADAMS -- After more than 17 years working at Williamstown's Milne Public Library, and another 14 months as director of the Dalton Free Public Library, Mindy Hackner is settling in as the new director of the North Adams Public Library.

After her first week on the job, Hackner said she has always loved libraries, even as a child. She refers to the Milne library, where she served as children's librarian, as her home library, since she spent so many years there.

St. Patrick's Day was her first day on the job in North Adams. Robin Martin, the adult reference services librarian, had served as interim director since August 2013, when former Director Rick Moon resigned for a similar position at C.H. McCann Technical School.

"I love to tour libraries whenever I can," Hackner said. "They're fun, they're free, they're democratic, and you can learn so much about the local community. They are the town's living room."

"And they are endangered," she added.

She noted that a recent poll showed 80 percent of the American public values the public library, but the usage numbers don't show a level of support reflecting that.

She also worries what effect the digital age will have on public libraries. Publishers won't allow ebooks to be loaned at the library and are being more conservative about the number of books that go to hard copy, limiting the pool of books available to libraries.

But she is confident that, because parents still crave the experience of reading children's books with pages and pictures to their kids, American culture will continue to place value on the tactile and educational experience of reading a real book.

"Everybody is working so hard, people just don't seem to have the leisure time anymore," she said. "But if you ask a parent about going to ebooks for children's books, they say, ‘Don't even think about taking that experience away from us.' "

The North Adams Public Library houses roughly 60,000 items for circulation -- including 17,600 items in the children's section -- on two floors of the former Sanford Blackinton mansion at the corner of Main Street and Church Street, overlooking downtown.

There are five full-time and five part-time employees and nine volunteers. Hackner said they provide a "wealth of knowledge" and are extremely dedicated and good at what they do.

"Mindy Hackner brings the level of experience we're looking for as well as historic knowledge of our local libraries and the local area," said North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. "She came with new ideas of things we can do to show our off our library. It is the heart of our city."

Hackner received her bachelor of arts in English from the University of Massachusetts and her master's in library science from State University of New York.

She said she is "big on" supporting the curriculum in local schools with materials and other resources at the library "in any way possible."

For now, she's looking forward to building a list of three or four priorities with the rest of the library staff of "major things that need to happen this year."

Hackner is happy to be in North Adams, a city which she sees as showing a lot of potential for growth.

"I'm excited about North Adams, about the expansion at Mass MoCA, about everything that is going on at MCLA, and all the work being done to make Main Street vibrant again."

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