GROTON -- After 25 years, the Groton Public Library is under new management, and Vanessa Abraham said she aims to take it slow for a while after taking over from director Owen Shuman.
"This is my first job as a library director and I want to be the best director that I can be," vowed Abraham. "Owen had this place running fantastically and I just want to pick that up and keep it running that way into the future."
Looking ahead, Abraham, a resident of Nashua, N.H., said she has plans but does not intend to let them interfere with current operations at the library.
"I'm really looking forward to us joining the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium," said Abraham. "But so far, I'm just taking care of the little things that I think will improve customer service. Right now, I'm still just getting my feet under me and learning the ins and outs of the Groton Public Library. It's a work in progress."
Abraham, who worked the last 12 years as assistant librarian at the Bedford Public Library and five years before that as a reference librarian in Windsor, Conn., was hired by the Board of Library Trustees last year and began work on Dec. 3.
At the time, Shuman was still on the job, allowing for a smooth transition period before she left on Dec. 14.
Upon being hired as the new director, Abraham said her instructions from the trustees were simple.
"They just wanted me to be forward-thinking in terms of the library," Abraham said. "Being responsive to the community as a whole and to continue to pursue projects already under way, such as expanding the teen space area."
Not having been to Groton before, Abraham said she was much impressed by the town and its library upon first setting eyes on both.
"I hadn't visited the library until I saw the posting for the director's job, and when I finally saw it, my mouth dropped open," revealed Abraham. "It was such a beautiful library. And the Groton area as well. It's not some place that I've been to before, and I was just blown away. The staff at the library, too, was just wonderful. They were all dedicated, friendly and helpful. I was also impressed with the collection."
But in an age when interest in reading for entertainment is in sharp decline while computerized forms of entertainment are on the rise, the future of print media has begun to look shaky to say the least, calling into question the role of libraries in the future.
"I think there will always be print books for readers but that in the future, people will be able to get reading material in any format they want," admitted Abraham. "There will be more flexibility. People will expect it. If it's in the market place, people will want it and we want to provide it. The next thing is going to be downloadable videos but right now, we don't have service for that.
"What I'm looking forward to is a new idea in libraries that involves creating spaces where we can provide areas and tools where patrons can create their own content, such as 3D printers or video editing software that currently suits a person at home but could be provided at the local library," continued Abraham. "That's a new trend in local libraries that I'm looking forward to following.
"However, I believe very strongly in libraries and in the 21st century, more so than ever before because there will always be information have and have-nots, and libraries can help bridge that gap," said Abraham, who received her master's degree in library science at the University of Michigan. "So providing resources that people can't afford will always be something a community-centered library can do. Right now, our meeting rooms are always in demand, and I think parents are going to want to continue to introduce their children to reading and learning and that means print books. Lifelong learning, that's something we're really pushing in Groton. That's why people refer to libraries as the people's university.
"But while I definitely see more technology being introduced," Abraham said, "libraries will continue to adapt and be a place where people come to meet one another as a community. There will be a lot of emphasis on providing the most enriching environment for children -- and not just with books but with story times and other activities. And we will always continue to provide materials for free to our community no matter what format they're in. People always need stories and the public library is one of the places that make them accessible to all."
In the meantime though, Abraham is not averse to picking up a real book from time to time with the last one read being "Ready Player One," a novel by Ernest Cline.
"It was a really fun book," enthused Abraham. "It was a roller coaster of a ride with a futuristic setting where everybody is living in virtual reality to solve a big puzzle with 80s trivia. I read wisely and try to read some of the best books listed every year. And like most librarians, I also like to read mysteries!"