Director writes a new chapter in library career

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Laura Bailie believes everyone is in the process of learning something new every day. And the new director of Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library in Waynesboro is committed to guiding patrons when they need help.

“No one should ever be ashamed of asking a question, whether they are 5 or 95. I’m happy to help all of them,” Bailie said. “We all have so much on our minds and in our lives, if things don’t sink in the first time, that’s OK.”

Bailie worked 14 years with the Franklin County Library System, including serving as director of Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library in Greencastle. “My last position was as a district consultant librarian, where not only was I a resource person for the public but served as a liaison between the staff of Franklin and Fulton County libraries and the state – promoting initiatives, helping to get reports back and forth, advising on codes and regulations and just being a listening ear for library directors,” she said.

Being a support person for her staff is of paramount importance to Bailie. “I have excellent people here. The staff is very good at planning programs and working with people; however, it helps for them to have a sounding board and support, whether it’s guidance or handling problem situations,” offered Bailie, who holds a master’s degree in library and information science. “If the staff is not happy, learning and growing, how are they going to communicate to the community that this library is a wonderful place to be?”

Bailie’s duties include making sure the directives of the board are carried out as well as hearing the needs and wishes of the patrons. “We have to keep the library running in a way that is responsive to the community,” she said.

In addition, Bailie is responsible for budgeting, state reports and working with local community groups.

“I don’t want the community to remember the library like it was 20 years ago. This library has grown and changed. Libraries offer so many more services and resources than people remember from their childhood. We have books and we love to share them with people, but we also have internet databases with resources from all places, eBooks and computers on site with Internet/Wifi, etc. People visiting from out of town can stop in to check their email or print plane tickets,” Bailie said.

The new director credits predecessor Linda May for helping to set up the library’s Makerspace, which features a 3D printer and other technology to foster creativity. “STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is crucial to our society today, both for children and adults,” she said. “The library can be an educational and entertainment hub and a social gathering place, a place where people can learn and develop. There are so many options for people in libraries today because of electronic resources. And they don’t need to walk through the doors to be able to access resources. They can download them to their devices.”

The programming Alexander Hamilton library offers is “incredible” according to Bailie. “We have speakers on subjects such as financial literacy – setting up power of attorney and estate planning – as well  as  various programs for children, teens and adults. We have a program where one of our staff members takes people to Caledonia State Park and they take a walk and do photography along the way and then share their photos with each other,” she explained.

The library hosts a knitting and crochet club, a coloring club, and a contemporary discussion group, The Socrates Cafe, which meets twice a month, and many others, she noted.

“We’re in the middle of wrapping up some of our summer programming and the fall programming will roll out in September,” Bailie said.

She also praised Alexander Hamilton Library staff for how they handled recovering from closures during the COVID pandemic. “No one did it better. It was hard to get people used to coming back in, and this library has done a great job of encouraging them to start attending programs again,” Bailie said.

“I’m still getting my feet wet but I want to hear from the community – get their feedback. If they’re not using the library, we’d like to know why,” offered Bailie, who plans to institute a few small surveys. “We’ve talked about doing more strategic planning for the library, what we need to focus on next, and community feedback is essential. The community is thriving and the library can support that growth, but we have to know what the needs are.”

Bailie refers to herself as a “library missionary” as she encourages patronage of the facility. “There’s always something happening here.”