After three months of searching and interviews, Woodstock Library trustees voted to appoint Janet Dymond as the Library’s new director and steer it through the waters as the board plans for future expansion. The vote was unanimous to appoint Dymond, effective September 28 at a salary of $61,500, though trustees Jill Fisher and Barry Samuels were absent.
Since former director Amy Raff’s resignation in May, Jessica Kerr has been filling the interim role in addition to her duties as librarian.
Dymond, who grew up in the Sullivan County town of Grahamsville, where she resides now, is senior librarian at Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanoch, a post she has held since May 2014. Prior to that she held the same position at Eastern Correctional Facility. She got her start at the Daniel Pierce Library in Grahamsville.
Away from library life, Dymond actively contributes to her community by coaching youth basketball, serving on the School Board and running the local cemetery association.
Board President Stuart Auchincloss noted Dymond is the first director coming to Woodstock from the outside in a generation. “We chose her because of her curiosity and interest in learning and attention to detail,” Auchincloss said. “I think Janet Dymond is just the right person to lead the library into the future.”
Such curiosity and interest proved useful in a prior post when Dymond taught herself Cisco networking systems because she knew it may take a week for the tech person to fix any issues with the library computer network.
For the last eight years working in the prison system, Dymond has helped teach inmates how to use the public library as a resource when they get out. She helped provide classes such as starting a business and how to publish.
But after working in prisons, Dymond is ready to transition back into public libraries. “I’ve always liked small community libraries,” she said. “I like to get to know the people.”
Working with the community is what needs to be done, she said, to avoid repeating the process that led to the scrapped plan to build an annex on the grounds of the former Library Laundromat. “You have to go out and meet with the community leaders,” Dymond said. While public hearings on expansion plans are important, it’s equally if not more important to go and talk to those people, whether it be at a Chamber of Commerce function or some other event, she explained. “It’s really important to reach out to the community and understand what their needs are,” she said. “If nobody is going to support the building then it’s not going to succeed.”
The board, seeing an opportunity to alleviate some of the space needs, snatched up the Library Laundromat across the street for a mere $75,000 at a 2012 tax auction.
Confident a small annex could be funded by grants and donations, trustees hired an architect and were ready to delve deeper into the planning phases when public outcry began. Opponents’ objections ranged from environmental concerns at the streamside site to the building just being ugly. Whatever the reasons, the common thread in complaints about the project was lack of transparency.
Trustees, who were used to little or no audience members at monthly meetings, were taken aback and eventually halted the project and appointed a Facilities Task Force. That group recommended updating the library’s master plan and said if an addition is done, it should be in the back of the existing library. Most of the opponents agree the laundromat purchase was wise, but the question is what to do with the building or land.
Community involvement is something that brought a 23,500-square-foot addition to the Daniel Pierce Library in 2011. Though some state grants helped the project along, it was built almost entirely by the hands of the community’s many skilled tradespeople who volunteered their time and hard labor, Dymond said.
Could that work in Woodstock? Dymond is open to the idea, but points out the Daniel Pierce Library is governed by an association while Woodstock’s library is in a special taxing district where laws about prevailing wages and other restrictions may apply.
Spreading the word and gathering research
Since space at the library is limited, Dymond wants to use meeting rooms, the Community Center and firehouses to bring programs and services out into all areas of the town. By doing this outreach, it is her hope the community sees the kind of services the library already provides and gives their support to any capital project to keep them going. Those offsite programs may also result in people more willing to provide input on needed programs that are not yet offered.
“I can’t provide a service if I don’t know there service isn’t being provided,” Dymond said.
While Dymond’s roots are in Sullivan County, Woodstockers and library patrons will likely see more of her. She hopes to move to or near Woodstock soon since she believes in the full experience of being part of a community.