For Lenox Library director, opportunity knocked — and the rest is history

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LENOX — Now that the town has closed its search for the new position of local history librarian, it's about to cast a net to land a new library director.

Pursuing her passion for chronicling the community's historical assets, Amy Lafave, appointed as director four years ago, has decided to accept the internally posted position as official local history librarian.

The new post was approved last May by annual town meeting voters as part of the library budget for the current fiscal year. The town-owned library was founded in 1856.

Lafave's new role at the library was announced at Wednesday's Select Board meeting by Lee-Lenox Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen and Selectman David Roche, who also serves as vice president of the Lenox Library Association, a nonprofit that provides supplementary funding, and operates library services and programming.

"We finally brought one of our dreams to fruition," Roche explained, adding that he and Ketchen have been discussing how best to showcase and display the library's considerable historical archives and treasures. He pointed out that New York state requires each community to appoint a town historian.

"We kicked that around, fleshed it out and wondered if it was something that we could implement," Roche said. "We decided we could do that and show the people of Lenox exactly what history we have, where it's kept, and get it out there and get excited about it."

The next step was to win town meeting approval for the position and the funding.

Ketchen and Lafave worked together on a job description, and the position was posted internally several weeks ago.

As Lafave put it in a follow-up interview Thursday, "I realized that this was my passion, a job I'd like to have, and right in my wheelhouse."

Before her appointment as library director, she had served as archivist, reference librarian and music librarian.

"I'm gladly taking a pay cut because I'm so excited about this opportunity," she said. "I do not regret for a moment the opportunity to serve as the director of the Lenox Library. It really is a special place, and I hope I have shepherded it well enough for my successor to have a smooth transition. I am eager to get to work on promoting the story of Lenox."

The posted description for the full-time position with benefits called for a local history librarian who "interprets Lenox history through research and writing, teaching and public presentations." The librarian also would "assist in commemorative events, promote local heritage tourism and safeguard the documents and records of the town's history."

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The job posting giving preference to qualified internal candidates yielded Lafave as the only applicant, Ketchen said.

"I asked Miss Lafave what made her want to be the local historian librarian for the town of Lenox," he told the Select Board members. "She expressed to me her passion for history; she literally wrote the book on the history of Lenox, `Images of America: Lenox.' "

The book was published in early 2017, in association with the town's 250th anniversary commemoration.

"I'm personally grateful to her for having navigated the library through the directorship at two pivotal times of transition," Ketchen said. "I don't think there's any other person who could have transitioned the library into becoming a town department and through a transition of directors as successfully as she did. I'm very much looking forward to the programs that she will be running and the public outreach related to informing and engaging the citizens on our town's history."

In October 2015, Lafave agreed to accept an interim position as director, after the departure of Sharon Hawkes, who had run the library for nearly five years as executive director. Two months later, she was named permanent director, a promotion after her 20 years on the staff.

In November 2017, special town meeting voters unanimously approved transferring control of the library building, its budget and its day-to-day maintenance and management operations to Town Hall as a municipal department. The turnout was just over 5 percent of the town's 3,728 registered voters at the time.

Lafave and most of her staff became town employees, while the library association retained control of the library's books and other materials, historical archives, music collections and endowment.

The library's current budget funded by the town is $415,004, up from $341,251 the previous year. The increase covers the new historian position as well as the addition of Sunday hours, currently 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The nonprofit library association is responsible for raising $132,000 a year as a supplement to the town appropriation.

Lafave, 54, a 1983 graduate of Lenox High and one of seven children, obtained degrees in music and English from Connecticut College, followed by a master's in library science from the State University of New York-Albany.

Explaining that Lafave's acceptance of the local historian post does not require Select Board approval, Ketchen added that "it generates a vacancy that will require selectmen's approval to fill it. We'll be going through a very active recruitment process in advertising the position of library director for the town."

As Selectwoman Marybeth Mitts noted, Lafave has agreed to continue as library director until the position is filled.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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