The Saugerties Public Library (SPL) has a new director. Frank Rees, former director of the Kent Public Library in Putnam County, officially took the reins at SPL on Monday, Oct. 14. Rees is replacing former library director Sukrit Goswami, who resigned in June after a tenure of about two and a half years to accept a position as executive director at a library consortium outside Philadelphia. Staff librarian Tiffany Lydecker filled in until a permanent director was hired.
Rees was library director at Kent (near Carmel) from January 2008 until the Friday prior to his new start in Saugerties, making the transition with just a weekend off. His library career began in 1994 as director at Hudson Area Association Library, where he was employed for 11 years before moving on to work as assistant director at Howland Public Library in Beacon for the three years preceding the lead position at Kent.
Saugerties Library Board members Sally Colclough and Irene Hurst said that the new director impressed the board during the hiring process with how “tapped into” the Mid-Hudson Library System Rees is, and how he appears to be open to ideas other than his own; something appreciated in administrators, said Hurst. “And he seems to be very well-rounded,” she added.
For his part, Rees says he “can’t wait to get started” and is looking forward to getting established in the community and getting to know everybody. “That’s one of the fun parts of being a library director,” he says, “getting out and talking to the people—the business owners, the politicians, the library patrons.”
Rees says that coming to Saugerties feels in a way as if he’s coming full circle, because back when he had just earned his master’s degree in library science (at SUNY Albany in 1992), the Saugerties Library was hiring a director then, too, and he applied for the position. “I was young and green and didn’t have the experience, so I didn’t get it, of course, but now I’m back.”
Rees and his wife Lucy will continue to live in Hudson, as they have for nearly 30 years. He’s pleased to cut down on the 130-mile roundtrip commute he was making to Kent.
Rees envisions a bright future for the library. “It’s in a very good position now to become a superior 21st century library,” he says. “The funding structure is already in place, there’s a good staff, a good board and a great new building—the perfect marriage of the old Carnegie library with the new addition.”
Rees praises SPL’s current “broad array of programs for every age group on a lot of different topics” and says that will continue. He plans to emphasize technology. “I see the library as offering all of the traditional services, and I’d like to be able to offer the community books and reading materials, of course, but in every conceivable format. Technology is always changing so we need to stay abreast of that and take every opportunity. I think we can move forward and start experimenting with a lot of new services.”
One of those new technologies, Rees said, involves offering video streaming to library patrons, using a Roku Box, which would replace the need for borrowing DVDs. “I see offering the opportunity to ‘try it before you buy it’ as an important role for the library—let the library buy the cutting edge technology for the community to try it out, and then they can decide if that’s something that’s right for them.”
Rees was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Bay Shore on Long Island, where he graduated from Bay Shore High School before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Plattsburgh. “Before I went to college, I never really got off of Long Island,” he says. “Growing up, I considered going to Bear Mountain State Park to be ‘going upstate.’ When I went to Plattsburgh it really opened my eyes to the possibilities in the rest of New York State.”
Rees and his wife came to live in Hudson when a good teaching opportunity arose there for her. Lucy is a middle school math teacher for seventh and eighth graders in the Hudson City School District. The couple, now married 30 years, raised two children in Hudson; Betsy, 27, and Matthew, 20. Now based in Albany, Betsy has a master’s degree in public health and works for the state Department of Health and Matthew is a college student at Schenectady County Community College.
Growing up in Bay Shore, the library was a major part of his life, says Rees. “We lived pretty far from it, but the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library had a school bus service on Saturday, and my mother would get all five of us ready every week and we’d get on the bus and go. We’d watch a movie, take out books—I was a pretty avid reader.” So avid, that by second grade Rees had read through the children’s section and had to get special permission to check out books from the adult side.
His mother was the motivation for his library career, too, Rees says. “She stayed home and raised five kids, but as soon as the kids got out of college, she went back and got a degree in history and then got her master’s in library science. I was kind of looking over her shoulder as she became a library director in New Jersey, and thought, ‘That’s really cool, I could do this.’”