Forbes Library director ready to turn the page

  • Retiring Forbes Library Director Janet Moulding is honored at a retirement party Thursday. She has worked at the library for 16 years, including the last 12 as its leader. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • —Amanda Drane

  • Retiring Forbes Library Director Janet Moulding was celebrated during a retirement party on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. —Amanda Drane

  • Retiring Forbes Library Director Janet Moulding was celebrated during a retirement party on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. —Amanda Drane

  • Retiring Forbes Library Director Janet Moulding was celebrated during a retirement party on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. —Amanda Drane

Published: 12/2/2016 12:02:29 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When she was appointed director of Forbes Library some 12 years ago, Janet Moulding became the first female to occupy the position. But it was the move she made on her first day on the job that immediately caught the attention of Forbes Library Trustee President Russell Carrier.

During that initial conversation, Carrier recalled Moulding bringing the following message: The library’s board is heading in the wrong direction and salary discrepancies among the librarians are a problem. Then Carrier recalled her informing him she’d be cutting $20,000 of her own annual salary to redistribute among the librarians. She also returned her holiday bonus each year to the library coffers.

Despite her mild-mannered exterior, “she knows how to be tough when the circumstances warrant it,” Carrier told about 70 people who gathered at the library Thursday afternoon for a retirement party to honor Moulding as she prepares to close the book on her career at the end of the month. Moulding will be replaced by Assistant Director Lisa Downing on Jan. 1.

Friends and colleagues spoke to her accomplishments during the party, perhaps most notably about Moulding’s commitment to shifting Forbes’ focus away from print books and more toward community programming.

“The saying is librarians don’t retire — they turn the page,” said Mayor David Narkewicz, wishing Moulding the best in her next chapter.

“You’ve always been a strong advocate for this institution.”

Blaise Bisaillon, the library’s previous director who retired in 2004, said not only did Moulding break the glass ceiling when she was promoted from assistant director at the library, but she was also the first director to manage the library’s finances.

“Janet, you have hugely rewarded the confidence we placed in you 20 years ago,” he said.

To demonstrate Moulding’s commitment to diverse programming, librarian Faith Kaufmann tried to play a video of Moulding being a good sport. But the video wouldn’t play.

“Somewhere in there is our fearless leader fearlessly participating in a belly dancing class,” Kaufmann said to laughter.

And her willingness to “draw raffle prize winners while hula hooping,” Kaufmann said, illustrates her drive to fundraise.

The poetry discussion group Moulding started, said writer and friend Diana Gordon, was the “beginning of the type of programming that means so much to the people here.”

Moulding has been so busy there’s been no time for opera and fun, but that will soon change.

“I’m about to get you back,” Gordon said, smiling.

Downing, who worked 12 years under Moulding, said she admires Moulding’s “clarity of purpose.”

“She values the mission of a library that is free and open,” Downing said. “While she honors tradition, Janet has never been afraid of change — or belly dancing, or hula hooping.”

The library is actively seeking a new assistant director to replace Downing, as well as a new treasurer. Downing thanked Moulding for serving as a mentor.

“I’m so grateful for everything you’ve taught me,” Downing told Moulding, wishing her well as she’s “out on the horse, walking the dog or rereading Jane Austen.”

To that point, Carrier said he molded his expectations for the new library director after Moulding. He said the board selected Downing because members wanted to know that Forbes is in good hands at all times, “a person who is attentive to the details without getting immobilized by them.”

“Whether you knew it or not, I was describing Lisa’s mentor, Janet Moulding,” he said.

Carrier listed off several of the director’s accomplishments, which include a number of important restorations and structural improvements, a $200,000 fundraising campaign that exceeded goals by $30,000 and programming that has morphed the institution into even more of a community space.

Plus, he said in an apparent reference to litigation trustees filed earlier this year, she’s been there to handle the “complicated relationship between the library and our partner, the city of Northampton.”

“She’s the real deal — the complete package,” he said. “Finishing up strong is in her DNA.”

Moulding took her time at the podium to issue a slew of thanks to the community and her staff. “Because boy, I didn’t do it by myself,” she said. “Forbes is fabulous and that’s because the staff is fabulous.”

Between the staff and the building, she said, this has been her “dream job.”

“I look forward to being a Forbes Library patron,” she said, just before everyone in the room stood to clap. “A good library makes a good community better and we should always be thankful for Forbes.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at

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