Like a smart librarian, Trish Connolly did some research before interviewing for the director position at Durham Public Library.
“I snuck into town just to get a feel for it,” said Connolly, a West Hartford resident. “People were just really charming and really warm. I went to Perk [on Main]. I’ll talk to anybody and people were just happy to talk to me.”
The positive feelings continued through the interview. “We had the same ideas in mind for how to move forward,” said Connolly.
Connolly took over the position at the end of July, replacing Valerie Kilmartin, who retired after nearly nine years as director. Like Kilmartin, Connolly has New York connections.
A native of Montclair, N. J. —“10 miles west of Times Square” — Connolly spent eight years in public relations in New York. While selling face cream and cars gave Connolly a sense of business, budgets, and clients, she decided that she wasn’t excited by the direction of her career.
Nine years after graduating from Providence College, Connolly dodged the journalism career path and returned to school for a masters of library science from Rutgers University. While earning the degree, she worked full time for her hometown library.
A lover of libraries since childhood, Connolly knew that she wanted to be a director, which is an unusual goal with a fresh MLS degree. “I wanted to be a director,” said Connolly, “I have all this business experience and now I have a library degree, so why not?”
Connolly did get a director position at the town library in Whitman, Mass., where she enjoyed the small town and the support the community gave the library.
Moving to West Hartford as a stay-at-home mom in 2007, Connolly eventually cobbled together different part-time library jobs. “Having these other jobs helped me get back in touch with what goes on in the trenches,” said Connolly, “It was really valuable ... I’ve done children’s, I’ve done young adult, I’ve done reference, I’ve done circulation, I’ve done cataloging, the whole smorgasbord.”
As for the Durham Public Library, Connolly was attracted to another small town library with good town support. The location of the library near the town green, post office, a school, and Town Hall makes for a true town center that Connolly appreciates. “The biggest strength that I’ve found is a really friendly and smart staff,” Connolly said.
She plans to work on a strategic plan for the next three to five years with the Library Board. “We’re not only going to adapt, we’re going to innovate,” Connolly said.
The library, according to Connolly, should be seen as a resource for job seekers, a destination for groups, and a site for events.
Durham residents have been introducing themselves to the new library director. Describing herself as an “open-door” person, Connolly looks forward to meeting more Durham residents and asking them, “What are you reading?”