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New Saturday hours, youth librarian at Easthampton library

  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library helps Mayuri Gupta,6, of  Easthampton, check out some videos Wednesday afternoon. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library helps Mayuri Gupta,6, of Easthampton, check out some videos Wednesday afternoon.


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston Library, says he's been going there for half of his life.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston Library, says he's been going there for half of his life.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library helps Mayuri Gupta,6, of  Easthampton, check out some videos Wednesday afternoon. <br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston Library, says he's been going there for half of his life.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jonathan Schmidt, the youth department supervisor at the Emily Williston library Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

Library Director Kristi Chadwick said patrons have been thrilled to hear that starting Sept. 7, the library will be open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“This has been a goal of ours since before I came on,” said Chadwick, who was hired in April 2012. “The public is very much looking forward to this.”

This summer, longtime employee and Easthampton resident Jonathan Schmidt was named head of the youth department, chosen from among 16 applicants to replace Johanna Douglass, who left in May.

In addition, Chadwick said she is also working to improve the building’s energy efficiency and technological offerings, and she is helping a committee of volunteers to draft an updated strategic plan for the first time since 1998.

Chadwick said that she and the library board worked hard to retool the library budget — funded by an endowment and city funds — to provide enough funding to bring back the Saturday hours.

“We were able this fiscal year to add new part-time people to work Saturdays,” she said. “They’re in training now.”

Familiar face

Schmidt, 24, is new to the role of managing the youth department, but he has been volunteering or working in the library on and off since he was 12. “So I guess I’ve spent half my life in this library,” he said with a laugh.

After being a devoted young patron, he started to volunteer in the library at 12 and working part-time at 16. He never thought of it as a potential career path until a few years ago. He is now about a year away from getting a master’s degree in library sciences.

He said that libraries are evolving to offer more services and keep up to date with technology.

“But it’s different in the youth department, because there are always going to be picture books. There’s nothing like sitting down with kids and a picture book,” he said. Schmidt said he has developed a real love for the picture book, which he sees as an “under appreciated art form.”

Schmidt, who started the job July 29, will work 28.5 hours per week in the position.

“He’s very proactive, he has a lot of great ideas, and he’s the president of Emily’s Friends of the Library,” Chadwick said, referring to a fundraising group that helps support the library. “He’s going to bring a lot to the library.”

Schmidt said he hopes to expand the library’s young adult section and offer more teen activities and programs to try to keep adolescents interested in the library. “It doesn’t matter how many kids you bring in, if you lose them all when they’re teenagers,” he said. “They won’t come back.”

Also in the works is a new strategic plan for the library. A committee of volunteers is working to draft the five-year plan and is seeking community input through a survey. The last plan was completed in 1997, Chadwick said.

“It’s really important to understand what the public is looking for from us,” she said. That could mean new collections, technology, services or hours. The survey is available at the library, the Council on Aging Enrichment Center and the city clerk’s office in the Municipal Building.

The strategic planning committee, made up of library board members and others from the wider community, has identified areas to improve: more programming for teens and better senior outreach, including possibly offering computer classes and other technology training to seniors.

Meanwhile, Chadwick, whose background is in technology, is hoping to increase the library’s technology offerings. She said patrons who use the five new computers at the library often struggle with tasks from sending emails to job searches. “People are always asking questions and we want to help them develop these skills,” she said.

She looked into the best way to offer computer and other technology classes to people and decided that creating “mobile laptop lab” would be the best way to offer the most services to the most people, whether at the library, the Enrichment Center or elsewhere.

She presented her $15,000 plan to buy 10-12 laptops and accessories the Easthampton Savings Bank Foundation, which awarded her a challenge grant. If the library can raise $7,500, the grant will cover the rest.

“We’ll be reaching out to the community to help,” she said of the upcoming fundraising campaign.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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