New Webster Library Director Sondra Murphy looks forward
By Janet Stoica
If travelling to exotic places is a requirement for becoming a savvy and knowledgeable library director, then Sondra Murphy has certainly checked that box. In the past few years, she has experienced the sights, sounds, and people of India, Nepal, and Vietnam.
Ms. Murphy is the Gladys E. Kelly Library’s new director.
The education, experiences, and world views Ms. Murphy has obtained surely cannot be measured but those travels have served to expand her life outlook and ability to relate to all library patrons. To paraphrase Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness. Broad wholesome charitable views of all of us cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Ms. Murphy volunteered at an American school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where she helped to build and train personnel for the school library. “The opportunity and experience I had there were amazing,” she said. “My husband and I then visited India, where we experienced yoga and meditation retreats. In Vietnam, we became fans of the wonderful foods offered and visited the many museums. While in Kathmandu, Nepal, I learned about a library director position in Leominster, which I interviewed for and accepted.”
Ms. Murphy earned a master’s degree in Library Science at Simmons University, Boston. Originally from Boylston, she was the Children’s Librarian in the town of Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard, which has a population similar to Webster, about 15,000, (with a summer population of about 150,000).
A year later she promoted to be the library’s director. She successfully rebranded the local library and set up a new website. She stayed on the Vineyard for five years and also met her husband there.
When their housing needs changed, they moved back to this area. She accepted a position as Youth Services Coordinator with the Worcester Public Library, becoming immersed not only with the main branch at Salem Square but also with the four school/public libraries in Worcester’s four quadrants. After a stint as the Library Director in Leominster she realized that she wanted a more hands-on approach where she could mingle with library patrons, and after applying for and interviewing with Webster, she successfully landed here!
Webster’s library is currently operating in COVID mode. Ms. Murphy has met individually with her staff of three full-time and three part-time employees. The library also has two volunteers who are essential to it operation. “I really enjoy the staff here,” she said. “The town hall staff has been wonderful as well. They’re amazing. I can tell this is going to be a great place to work and be part of. Everyone looks forward to working in a newly-built and well-organized library like Webster’s. Some of the projects I’ll be working on are the internal processes and procedures, our summer reading program, and bringing programs outdoors to the lawn area. This beautiful building is so modern, spacious and bright. It’s truly inspirational and every librarian’s dream to work in such a new establishment. I hope to bring new and interesting programs to our library.”
Long-term plans include boosting programs and offerings to make the facility a vital place in town, maintaining good relationships with other town boards and committees, working closely with the Friends of the Library, ensuring fresh collections, and getting to know the community.
Ms. Murphy looks forward to hearing suggestions and getting feedback. “People tend to have an old view of libraries,” she says. “We’re not old and stodgy and quiet. We are a living, breathing entity that is a reflection of the community. Our staff is vibrant, warm, and welcoming to our patrons and we look forward to expanded hours of operation in late April. I’m excited to be here and look forward to new and innovative programs for Webster.”
Hours of operation are limited currently due to COVID and the lobby is the only area available to patrons. Books are held there for those requesting them and staff will be happy to retrieve additional materials requested. Chromebooks and Hot Spots are available for lending.
Gladys E. Kelly Public Library is at 2 Lake Street, Webster. Phone: (508) 949-3880. Hours: 10 – 5 Mon/Tues; 10-1 Wed; 10-7 Thurs; 10-5 Friday.