Library Trustee Q&A: Leanne Hammonds

Leanne Hammonds seeks re-election to the Board of Library Trustees.

Tell people about your background — family, professional background, volunteering, government, activism — and how that will help you as a Library Trustee?

My name is Leanne Hammonds and I am running for re-election as library trustee. I currently serve as chair of the board of trustees and have been a trustee for five years.  I grew up in Portland, Maine, and moved to Watertown with my husband Evan in 2005. We have two children, Edward and Elena. They both attend Watertown Public Schools and I have volunteered many hours as a PTO member and a Lowell School library volunteer. I am an attorney by trade and rely on my legal training as trustee when it comes to reviewing contracts, setting library policies and advocating on behalf of the library. This past year, I successfully advocated to the Watertown Charter Review Committee that library trustees remain an elected (rather than appointed) position, and I am thrilled that Watertown voters will continue to have a say in library governance through their elected trustees. I’m also thrilled that there is such an impressive group of women running for trustee this year!  

What is your favorite thing about the Watertown Free Public Library?

My favorite thing about the library is how dynamic and innovative it is. From Hatch Makerspace to the new Zine collection to the Library of Things, there is always something new to learn and discover at the Watertown Free Public Library (‘WFPL’) — all in a welcoming, inclusive, and inviting space. WFPL serves as a community center in Watertown and its innovative programs and collections bring people together. The WFPL’s next exciting innovation will be the launch of a new 21st century bookmobile which we voted to purchase earlier this year. I can’t wait for the bookmobile to start making its rounds to Watertown’s neighborhoods, hopefully in 2022!

How did you decide to run for the Board of Library Trustees, and why do you think the board plays an important role for Watertown residents?

I have been an enthusiastic library patron for many years and served on the WFPL Strategic Planning Committee in 2015. I was appointed to the Board of Trustees when a seat opened up in 2016 and then ran and won election in 2017. I am running for re-election because I want to help lead the library forward over the next four years. There has been significant turnover on the board in recent years, with several long-time members moving on. As a result, the board will be made up of mostly newer members come January and I think my experience would be helpful and provide continuity going forward.

The trustees play a key role in deciding library policy, setting budget priorities and overseeing the work of the library director. I have learned a lot as trustee, particularly while serving as chair during the pandemic. Confronted with an unprecedented situation, the trustees and library administrators had to be flexible, thoughtful and strategic in our decision-making during the closure and throughout the reopening process. I am proud that the WFPL was one of the first public libraries in Massachusetts to reopen safely and has stayed open continuously since July of 2020.

What is the most pressing issue facing the Watertown Library? 

One of the major challenges facing the library as we move into 2022 is the transition to a new city manager. For the past 28 years, Mike Driscoll has served Watertown as manager and during that time he has been very supportive of the WFPL. From the extensive renovation of the building in 2006, to growing the Project Literacy and Hatch programs, Mr. Driscoll has consistently prioritized the library and its mission. He will certainly be tough to replace. As advocates for the library, the trustees need to stay abreast of the process for selecting a new manager by attending ad hoc committee meetings and, if possible, public interviews with candidates. The trustees will eventually work with the new manager and perhaps an interim manager, and we will need to help impress upon them the vital role that WFPL plays in this community.

Watertown has many residents who have moved to the area from outside the United States, many of whom do not speak English as their first language. What can the Watertown Library do to help these residents, and how will you find out what types of services they want from the library in their new hometown?

The WFPL provides an important resource to new residents through its popular Project Literacy program and citizenship classes. Project Literacy offers English language classes and pairs learners with volunteer tutors. As trustee, I will continue to support Project Literacy and in the long term, we hope to expand the library to provide more meeting spaces for this and other programs. The library also connects residents to social services through drop-in appointments with social workers and career counselors.

In terms of finding out what types of services residents want from the library, I would listen to ideas from both newcomers and longtime residents. I think our recently hired community outreach librarian and the new bookmobile will be vital resources in obtaining feedback from residents. The library also conducts periodic patron surveys seeking input for its strategic planning process. Every few years, the trustees participate on the Strategic Planning Committee, together with library staff members and Watertown residents selected to join the committee. This year we had a diverse group of residents serve on the committee, including some who speak English as a second language. Together, we honed the vision, priorities and goals for the library which were then incorporated into a three-year strategic plan. The plan can be viewed on the library website here:

What is something that people may not know about you that residents would find interesting?

One thing that even close friends may not know about me is that I love history and genealogy. Over the past few years, I have been working on my own and my husband’s family trees. My roots are French and Irish and I have traced my French side back to some of the earliest settlers of Quebec. My husband has English, Italian and African ancestry and I have traced his roots back to pre-Civil War. I love discovering family connections and sharing with our kids the richness and diversity of our family history.