Claudia Cayne Interview:
This is file number 27, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is May 4, 2016. I am interviewing Claudia Cayne who is the Director of the Scoville Memorial Library. She is going to talk about her job as director of the library and other things that she has accomplished in the time that she has been here. But first we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
JM:Your birth date?
JM:Your birth place?
JM:Your parents’ names?
CC:My mother is Helen Cayne and my father is Bernard Cayne.
JM:Do you have siblings?
CC:I have one brother Douglas.
JM:Your educational background where you got your Masters of Library Science.
CC:Good questions, southern Connecticut State University.
JM:When did you get that degree?
JM:How did you come to the area?
CC:I got divorced; I was looking for a place to live. I drew a circle on the map which included where I lived working at the time which was Roxbury and where I was living at the time which was Litchfield. Then I looked at all the houses I could afford. They were all in Sharon except one in Salisbury. I feel very lucky to be up here.
JM:You are on Calkinstown Road, aren’t you?
CC: I am.
JM:That is a beautiful spot. What is your job description? What were you hired for specifically?
CC:I was hired to run the library which includes anything you can think of as far as running an organization: budgeting, programs, selection of materials because it is a library, relationships with staff, boards, the town. Then there is always the catch phrase in these job descriptions” and anything else as needed.” This of course grows every year.
JM:How long have you been here?
CC:I have been here for 14 years.
JM:Were you hired to develop the adult programs in the community?
CC:Yes I mean specifically, although I did not know it at the time that is what they were looking for. There were none and I have experience in that area.
JM:What are your goals for the library?
CC:My goals for the library are to continue to remove as many barriers as we can to get people to using the collection, enjoying the space, and attending programs. That is a very broad goal; it covers just about all the little pieces that I would like to have fall into place.
JM:The renovation is going to enhance very definitely that activity.
CC:Yes that is what it is being designed to do. I love the library; I think people who come there love the library so my goal is to get people through those doors.
JM:and as many as possible.
CC:Exactly with the assumption that if we treat them well and give them something they like, they will come back.
JM:An excellent idea. How do you go about selecting your material?
CC:I follow a lot of what is being covered in the media so when an author is being interviewed on NPR or TV shows or some other radio shows and they receive coverage in the press. I follow all of that on almost a daily basis. I read professional review journals which are for people who buy books whether they are book stores or libraries. I make my selection from there; I also look on reader driven web sites like Amazon and Good Read to see what regular people who have actually read these books or watched movies think of them.
JM:Do you do the same media outlets for CDs and DVDs?
CC:I do, but the CDs are going to be driven by the interest in the book. I also follow the circulation figures so I can see authors in the audio genre that have circulated really well. For instance there are a lot of people who don’t read mysteries, but they listen to them as thrillers. So people who listen to
different things than they read many times. As far as the DVDs I actually use a site called “Rotten Tomatoes” which combines critical reviews along with user reviews.
JM:What are some of the services that you have added specifically to the library?
CC:The digital library E-books and downloadable audio music and videos as service are really our program. We just expanded our program from zero to what we have now.
JM:But you have done a lot of technological workshops on how to use the computer and so forth.
CC:Yes and we do over the years that has morphed into one on one. I have been asked a lot since I stopped doing the classes, “When am I going to be doing the classes again?”
JM:They were excellent. I participated in a couple of them. They were very well organized and very well presented.
JM:What is our state ranking?
CC:For a library of towns of 5,000 and under, we are the top in circulation and usage.
JM:Approximately how many patrons do we have?
CC:We have they call it registered card holders and I think we are around 2400 to 2800.
JM:That is a lot for a small town library.
JM:How many staff do you have?
CC:I have a mental block about this so I am going to go with the number 10, including me.
CC:We have two people who work 30 hours a week and everybody else anywhere between 3 ½ and 20 hours. I always want to have two people in the library when it is open. We are open 6 days a week. It is a lot of juggling.
JM:When you are hiring staff, what are the qualifications that you look for?
CC:I consider libraries service organizations above all. I am looking for somebody who is interested in helping people, those who have a friendly and welcoming demeanor. There are some people who are hardly ever on the circulation desk, but I want people that at least have the wherewithal to do that well should they be asked to come out on the circulation desk.
JM:Everyone that I have dealt with over the 50 years I have been doing this library they are wonderful/. They are very helpful and outgoing. It creates a very warm friendly atmosphere whether you are upstairs where we used to be or downstairs in the basement, particularly in the basement now. I think a lot of people get a very warm feeling they like the space they like the atmosphere that the ladies have created.
CC:In the temporary library space?
JM:The upstairs as it used to be was a little intimidating; downstairs isn’t. It is very warm and welcoming with the color scheme and the way the space has been set up. It is very welcoming.
CC:I hope we can replicate that in our new space.
JM:I am sure that you will because that is the focus of the design company and the boards and everything else. How do you keep up with the trends in library science?
CC:I think with all the advances it has been sort of on- going for years, but I think that libraries constantly have to reinvent themselves, especially as technology has taken over so much of our day-to-day existence. We are looking for new ways to redefine the library so again I follow discussions on the internet. I read professional journals to keep abreast of what is going on. There is a conference that Is held each year for rural and small libraries; I have attended that a couple of times. It is my goal to go every year because I find that the most informative and inspirational. It is just for rural and small libraries which are very different animals that a large city library. In many states libraries are county systems so they are huge with support and infrastructure. You are part of this larger machine. Here we are on our own.
JM:In talking with Inge Hechel, Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library, (See file # 26, cycle2 Inge Heckel) I believe you got a grant one year to go to one of these conferences.
CC:I did. They helped fund it.
JM:What are some of the things that the Friends of the Library have done for the library?
CC:Countless things; they have helped fund furniture that we bought 10 years ago. They are helping to fund the creation of the new children’s library space. They have funded the addition of our downloadable audiobooks, music and videos service that we have each year. They pay for the New York Times which is really quite expensive because we do not have delivery up here. We have to go to the pharmacy. They have supported material acquisitions in a number of ways over the years. They have supported various programs; specifically over the past 4 years we have had Mark Scarborough who is a very popular lecturer of literature. They fund him every year. I think they have hardly ever turned down a request of mine.
CC:They have had different ways that they have wanted me to ask for funding,5.
JM:These are all things that you couldn’t do within your operating budget?
CC:I think my first full year here was when we were developing the budget, there were significant cuts in the income stream. One of which was over $100,000 cut. You can’t continue operating with that type of a cut. Thanks to their help during those lean years we have since recovered. During those lean years the patrons never noticed the difference because we were still able to buy what they had expected to be on our shelves and we still continued with programing.It was hugely helpful.
JM:They are very pro library which is incredible. We are very fortunate to have a Board of Trustees, Friends of the Scoville Library and the Director all on the same page working for the community, the patrons and making this a welcoming spot in the community.
JM:Do you have a wish list?
CC:My wish list right now as we were talking about this before we started recording, we are the only place that has the Lakeville Journal, our local paper, and we have it in two forms. We have some in bound volumes and some on microfilm. We have an ailing, barely held together, microfilm reader. These things cost over $5,000 to replace. The time has come to digitize this. The digitalization will mean that it is available to anybody around the world. It means that you can search all the Lakeville Journals by putting in a word so it makes it much more user friendly. I think it is an expensive proposition, but I think it would be a huge value to the community to have this created.
JM:It would be extremely valuable for many reasons.
CC:Once we are through the renovation I am really going to pursue that. I started down that road, but I just haven’t had time to revisit it.
JM:This renovation is rather a large project.
JM:Would you like to tell me a little bit about it?
CC;It has been talked about really since I have been here; the scope of it has changed completely. Even at that time we were considering expanding the footprint of the library but a lot of it had to do with the space to have more in the collection. As the world has changed, no library is expanding their footprint unless it was ridiculously small to begin with to have an expanded collection. Over the years we came to this conclusion that we weren’t going to expand the footprint except for the structure to have an elevator. That didn’t happen this time, but if somebody comes up with $1,000,000, we would be happy to stick that on the outside of the building. We have actually had several iterations of what we could do by different architects and we ended up going with Poesis, a local firm. They boldly presented something to the board that they had been specifically told not to do, but they went ahead and did it.
We’re doing it. (See File #20, cycle 2 John Hoffman). What they came up with was putting in a stair case to join the two floors because we have always had our community room where we have all the programs at the lower level and the library on the main level. There was no ability for the general public to travel between the two floors without going around the building. We are getting a staircase, even as we speak, the library is closed today while they are grinding and welding over there. Because it is an old building and because books are really heavy, we are very limited as to where you can move the books. That has been a source of a lot of struggles. With one of the plans we would have had to spend close to $100,000 dollars just shoring up the flooring so that we could move the books. The Poesis plan allowed us to keep the books in the wing that was put on in 1980 which was designed to hold that kind of weight. They have made as much use of the existing space as they can by code.
JM:They have made it more efficient.
CC:They have. On the lower level they have brought in a lot more natural light. I think it is really going to be a spectacular space.
JM:Everybody that I have interviewed about this thinks it is going to be spectacular.
CC:They are very creative in their use of furniture and colors.
JM:and the blue sink, I love the blue sink!
CC: Libraries have always done strategic plans and proceeded with them which I agree with is that you ask your community “What do you want?” rather than saying” We think you would like this.” We have done this twice in the 14 years that I have been here. Each time people have wanted a place for quiet study because libraries have gotten noisier; so we are finally getting that. We are actually going to take the Tower Room which I think is the most beautiful room in the library with this ornate plaster ceiling. We are having a table in there and glass doors that are going to go both entrances so that people can go in there and close the doors. There they can work quietly; groups can also reserve it for meetings. We are going to have another space where it will not be as quiet, but again people can close the glass doors and have a table to work at with a connection to the internet.
JM:When you were working at the circulation desk, the sound travels all the way down to the end of the “new” wing. You can’t help it. There is nothing to absorb the sound. This will be an absolutely wonderful improvement.
CC:Pretty much the thinking in libraries now is that the days of “shush “ are long gone, but people still want a place where they can get away from the hubbub of their lives and do their work. The thinking now is that you have quiet section of a library, and you have a section that is noisier so that people can work with each other and so on. That is exactly how this renovation is going to work.
JM:Sounds like a wonderful idea. When you put the books back on the shelves, the nonfiction, you have a very creative way of doing it. Tell me about what is happening to poor old Dewey!
CC:This has been something that libraries have been doing for 8 years. The Dewey Decimal System categorizes books by number so each topic area has a number. What I am doing in this “un-Deweying” of the collection, I am replacing those numbers with words. For instance 641.5 means cooking so instead of expecting you to remember that and interpret that, we are just putting cooking on the spine. Right now the Dewey arrangement is numerical, thus 641.5 precedes 798.2 in the new arrangement cooking will precede gardening. It will be arranged alphabetically. Under each major heading like cooking we have sub headings such as baking, healthy, vegetarian, or International. It makes it very easy for a person coming into the library looking for a book on gardening to just go to the “G” rather than having to look it up to know that it is 636. This is just another way of breaking down barriers of a person wanting to find a book on a certain topic; they can go to the catalog just like you always did to get a specific call number for a specific book, but you can also just wander down the aisles and know what you are looking at by topic. It makes it easier for us because we can point a person in the right direction. Right now under Dewey some books on the same topic may be in as many as four or five different locations. The idea of a lot of this is to pull them all together as best we could. I want to say that this new arrangement, like Dewey, is imperfect in that a book may cover many topics and you have to pick one. I am doing it based on if I were an average person where would I expect this book to be. This is just my opinion, but I am basing it on years of helping people find things and understanding how things are classified. We also recognize that none of it is perfect.
JM:Is there something that I haven’t asked you about the library that I should? Oh funding! I never asked you about funding.
CC: Oh funding we don’t need funding!
JM;I know about funding from the Friends of the Scoville memorial Library, but where do you get you funding for running the library?
CC:We get it from three different sources. The town has really been wonderful and increased our contribution dramatically since I have been here; right now we get about 40% of our budget from the town. By the town I mean from the municipal budget that is tax payer funded. We have an endowment which means that a long time ago somebody left us money which has been invested. We have a policy on how much we take from that fund to preserve the capital which generates the income. We get about 30% of our budget from that. The other 30% comes from our Annual Appeal. That means that we send out a letter twice a year to people who use our library. We get the names from a variety of sources but we rely on private donations for quite a hefty chunk of our budget. When we develop the budget we put a number in there as a goal because we don’t know if we are going to make it.
JM:But you usually do, don’t you?
CC:We usually do, but we don’t always. It can be a nail biter a lot of the time. The only other thing I would like to say is that libraries are very labor intensive so not only do the staff are at the desk to work with people who come to use the library, but it is a tremendous amount of time and effort to maintain a
collection and to maintain the library so that when we open the doors every day and everything that you expect to be there is actually there and reasonably neat. We try to anticipate what people are going to looking for. It is very labor intensive operation. The other thing I want to say is that the library is not just a place for things, things that you can come in and borrow. It is a place to come and relax; I think it is probably the only institution in America where you are not asked to buy anything. You can come and spend the entire day there, use the internet access, be social as much as you want or work silently by yourself as much as you want. In a place where people are becoming more isolated through their technology, it is a place where there are still living human beings who will talk to you , listen to you, be happy to see you, assist you with those dreaded (not dreaded) technologies and just help you in a variety of ways. If you have not used the library in a while, you should come give us a try.
JM:I think that is a wonderful way to close this interview, Claudia. Thank you so very much.
CC:You are very welcome.