New Lee Library director brings passion for small-town culture

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LEE — Amanda Merk's lifelong love of libraries has landed her in Lee.

Growing up in Nova Scotia, Canada, Merk was a regular at the New Glasgow Public Library, a typical family outing with her father, a carpenter and mother, a nurse.

"My parents were great readers and they loved to take me there," Merk said. "No matter your line of work, libraries are a great resource."

The bibliotheque visits would spark Merk's 25-year career working in both public and private libraries, which now includes becoming director of the Lee Library.

The library board of trustees in late winter chose the New Hampshire native from 17 applicants to replace Damon Vorce of Housatonic. He resigned last fall after four years on the job to start his own business.

Merk has a master's degree in library science and will earn $60,000 a year. She has direct responsibility for library finances, personnel, collections, public relations, facilities, computer systems and all other equipment.

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Board President Mary Philpott says Merk is the right fit for Lee.

"The search committee thought her experience with other small-town libraries and understanding of the role those libraries play in the town, was very important," Philpott said. "Her administrative experience and client services experiences would be very helpful in serving our community."

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Merk says Lee reminds her of the blue-collar life in Nova Scotia, where residents were passionate about their library.

She also finds Massachusetts has one of the best public library systems in the region.

"There's a more robust sharing of resources among the libraries," she said. "You can use the same library card from Provincetown to Williamstown."

Merk and her husband have relocated to the Berkshires from Woodstock, Vt., where she was that town's library director.

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Since arriving March 16 — three days after the library closed due to the pandemic — Merk has spent time getting to know the staff, town officials and meeting townspeople beyond the shuttered library on Main Street.

"The warm welcome and feeling of inclusion I have experienced since arriving in Lee has been outstanding. Much of my training and orientation has taken place virtually over many, many Zoom meetings, webinars, telephone calls, texts and emails," she wrote in the library's newsletter.

Merk has worked both from home and at the library itself, currently getting ready to reopen when the governor gives the go-ahead to let the public back into municipal buildings.

"There's no substitute for people coming into the library. You get to know your community when people ask for a specific type of book," she said. "I see so many people come to a library because it's a place to be, especially for the older patrons. They light up when they see the librarian."

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com


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