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Gas City library hires new director

BY Emily Rachelle Russell - erussell@chronicle-tribune.com

There’s a fresh face at the Gas City-Mill Township Public Library: new library director Jessi Brown.

Brown, a Huntington native with an elementary education degree from Purdue University, started working at the Gas City library on Aug. 20. The previous director, Nancy Bryant, resigned in a special session of the library board on June 19, according to meeting minutes provided by the library.

After loving an internship in the children’s section of the Huntington library, Brown knew she wanted to pursue library director experience. Heavy rains and water entering the lower level of the building meant Brown’s first day wasn’t the easiest transition. But she enjoys getting to know the staff and patrons at the library and is excited to be a part of the local community. Part of her love of working in a library is rooted in the changing nature of such institutions.

“Libraries are not boring,” Brown said. “Gone are the days of people walking around shushing you. We are starting to become community centers. We’re starting to become places where you can go and learn how to knit or even falconry – pretty much anything that you want to learn, we can try and find an expert in that field and do a program.”

The role of a library director is multifaceted. Brown’s responsibilities include overseeing staff, managing building maintenance and keeping track of library trends and technology. She’s also looking forward to working in community outreach, finding partner organizations the library can support through – for example – resume classes and job fairs. The main focus of her job is leading the library into the future.

Brown knows the Gas City library has several strong programs already, such as a well-attended knitting group. She has hopes of increasing the number of programs, though.

Classes Brown wants to potentially implement include computer classes, teaching attendees how to create a Word document or navigate social media, and teen life skills. Many teenagers go to college without knowing how to change a tire, sew a button or do laundry, Brown says, and the library could fill that knowledge gap. She wants teenagers to see the library as a safe, friendly place to hang out.

Another of Brown’s goals is to reach community members outside the library building walls. She hopes to provide access to online databases and become a face in the community through attendance at county fairs.

“We are kind of one of the last democratic spaces,” Brown said. “Anyone can come here, any age, any standing, whether it’s someone who is unemployed to someone who makes six figures a year. Everyone’s welcome, and they’re treated the exact same (way).”

The aging library building will be a challenge, Brown knows. Figuring out what needs to be maintained and finding the right people to do that work has already proven difficult. That problem can be further complicated by Brown’s lack of familiarity with the Gas City area and what resources are available there. But the kindness and support of the people in the community have her encouraged and excited to see where the library and its community can go.

For more information about library services and programming, go to www.gcmtpl.lib.in.us, call 674-4718 or visit 135 E. Main St. in Gas City.