Changing of the Guard at Lilly Library
New Director: No Longer
Is It Only about the Books
By Edward Shanahan
Sitting at her desk in an office on the second floor of Lilly Library, Mary Ann Tourjee, who became the library’s fifth director in just the last few years, seems relaxed even though she is brand new to the job and the community.
She and her husband moved to Florence only in June and as of July 1 she was on the job, succeeding Martine Hargreaves, director since 2003, who sheparded through the much-admired Lilly building renovation before ill health required her to retire. So there is much to learn and do.
“I see the library being a very vital part of the community,” Tourjee said, and “Florence is very much a village unto itself.”
So far, she seems to have picked up quickly
on the essential self-sufficient nature of Florence and its library’s hometown traditions.
She recognizes that the downtown Forbes Library is altogether different from Lilly as a result of its deeply rich book collection and its abundant resources for researchers.
“Lilly is here to help people find what they want,” she explains, by tapping into the world of “resource sharing” through computerized data bases available to libraries throughout the Commonwealth for finding books and other materials that are not necessarily available at Lilly.
She also had kind words for the expansion and renovation work that was completed last fall. “Certainly the building’s physical space is beautiful,” she said,. “People come in here to use this library because they like being in the building.” Although she is quick to point out that she believes it was important to “preserve the essence of the old building, people did not want to lose that.”
During a telephone interview, Holly Hargraves, a board member at Lilly for 15 years, wanted to emphasize how much the trustees valued Martine Hargreaves’ tenure and contribution, especially during the taxing and disruptive renovation.
“She carried us through the whole thing, she just ran with it, and it was such a daunting task; she did it almost effortlessly,” Hargraves said. “We can’t thank her enough for what she did for the library.”
Hargraves also had praise for the “vision” of the late Joyce Neal, who first advanced the concept of the renovation and was its early driving force. And the follow-through of her successor, Mark Kille, she said, was crucial. “He did the leg work and the paper work and got it going.”
Tourjee arrived in Florence most recently by way of a library position with the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System in Shrewsbury, and even more proximate, from her half-time job as a minister at the United Methodist Church of Greenfield, a position she will continue to hold.
In addition to her library work and master’s degree in library science, Tourjee is about a third of the way toward obtaining her master’s of divinity degree as well. Her course work for that has been done at Duke University in North Carolina.
While a native of Virginia, Tourjee has spent most of her professional life working for libraries in Massachusetts, coming here in 1986 from the University of Kentucky with her husband, a native of North Adams.
She worked for some 10 years at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield and then at the Westfield Athenaeum, before joining the state regional system.
Of course, libraries no longer are dominated by books. “People are still reading books, but they also are using other resources as well,” she said. A recent survey of Lilly patrons revealed that there is a large demand for the library to stock more DVDs. Does that meaning buying fewer books in favor of more audio-visual material? Maybe. Decisions for librarians are somewhat more complicated these days.
It becomes a question of the allocation of resources, Tourjee said. “Part of the challenge is staying tuned into what people are seeking and offering a high quality of material.”
As her immediate predecessors – Bruce Brooks, Joyce Neal, Mark Kille and Martine Hargreaves – also realized, Mary Ann Tourjee and her nine part-time staff members recognize that the role of the library is changing as rapidly as the technology that drives those changes.
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