Candidates have been coming out in droves for the 2015 Watertown Election and the Library Board of Trustees is no exception. The candidates appeared at the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum on Sunday.
The three of the four Library Trustees candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot attended the forum, but current trustee Timothy Tracy could not attend because of a conflict with a fundraiser for his family’s foundation.
The candidates were asked how the Watertown Free Public Library could better spread the word about all of its programs and events.
Current Trustee Michael Hanlon said he believes many residents already know what’s going on at the library.
“We have a very active website, a thousand of people a day come through the library and half the people in town have a library card,” Hanlon said.
Challenger Penelope Peoples said she served on the Library’s Long Range Planning Committee and they found the library had challenges with internal and external communications. Peoples has worked in corporate communications and said the library can always do more to reach out to the public.
For challenger Sheppard Ferguson the new residents of Watertown will be the biggest challenge. He said the longtime residents know about the library, but the new buildings on Pleasant Street and soon to be built on Arsenal Street are the main challenge.
Which candidates are not being served by the library was another question pondered by the Library Trustee candidates.
Ferguson said that for many people Watertown is a bedroom community.
“They are new to town. They are not really integrated into the community,” Ferguson said. “One thing the library does well is serving as a community center – for people who are learning English, new to the states. It is a place to come together.”
Hanlon said the library’s strengths are the children’s collection, which accounts for about 45 percent of the circulation, and it also has good programs for teens. The library is a great resource for new people to town, he added.
Peoples said she learned that the library does not reach young adults – those ages 28-40 – as well as other groups in town. She said she does not have a strategy in mind, but would focus on that.
Space has become a challenge for the library, and candidates were asked for their ideas.
Peoples said she is always amazed by how busy the library gets. She said the old Police Station has been discussed as a place to expand, but she is not sure if it will be an option. In any case, money will be needed for new space.
“Part of my background is fund raising for major institutions – Yale, the Harvard Law School, Middlebury College,” Peoples said.
Ferguson said the HATCH makerspace in in the Arsenal Project has been a good option for the library, at least in the short run. In his campaigning he heard how important the former branch libraries were to some residents.
The expansion of the main library has been a great success, Hanlon said. The library’s community rooms are often booked up every night. He said the supply and demand will be something the Library Trustees have to deal with.
Read more about the Library Trustees Candidates: